Friday, August 31, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nutrition Myth - High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) makes you fat and ruins your health

Much controversy and misinformation surround this food additive. It has been accused of causing obesity, diabetes, cancer and liver failure. Many of these allegations are outright ridiculous and are spread by non-scientific, uninformed sources with little to no knowledge of human physiology, nutrition and biochemistry. The additional implications relating to weight gain, diabetes and appetite are often based upon animal studies using excessively high levels of fructose given as the sole carbohydrate. Studies have looked at the metabolism of HFCS, its effect on insulin, appetite, leptin and ghrelin (appetite and satiety hormones) and found no significant differences from sucrose (table sugar) It is important to understand that HFCS is not fructose. HFCS starts as corn syrup, which is primarily glucose. Through an enzymatic process, much of the glucose becomes fructose, making the syrup comparatively high in fructose when compared to regular corn syrup (hence the name high fructose corn syrup). White, granulated sugar is about 50/50 glucose and fructose. HFCS used in beverages or food is either 42% or 55% fructose, not significantly higher and maybe even lower in fructose than regular sugar (sucrose). To imply that HFCS has some unforeseen physiological impact beyond its fructose and glucose content that does not exist in sugar stretches the boundaries of credibility.
The ratio of glucose to fructose in the American food supply has remained quite constant since the 1960s. To truly eat a diet high in fructose, one would have to go out of their way and it would not be easy. It would be convenient and simple if HFCS were the hazardous substance that many want it to be. However, consider that the rise in obesity in the US is mirrored around the world in all developed countries, yet HFCS is not a significant contributor of calories to the daily diet of countries outside of the US. In Latin American countries, for example, soft drink consumption makes up a significant portion of total daily calorie intake, obesity is on the rise and they still use sucrose to sweeten their beverages. There is no impact of HFCS beyond the calories in the food it is contained in. Spending time trying to blame HFCS for Americans' weight gain and poor health is to take the focus off of the true culprit: excess caloric intake, poor food choices and a lack of physical activity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nutrition Myth - Eating carbs past 7pm leads to fat/weight gain

Weight gain is a result of eating more calories than you burn on a regular basis, not when you eat those calories. Due to their preference or schedule, there are many people who eat later in the evening, before bed or even wake up in the middle of the night to take in calories. If one gained weight doing this, it was due to excess calorie intake, not the timing.

The body does not have an enzyme with a watch that after 7 p.m. preferentially stores items, especially carbohydrates, as fat. We all have a certain number of calories that we can consume without gaining weight. As long as that number is not exceeded, weight gain will not occur. Imagine this scenario: it has been established that you burn 2750 calories in a 24 hour period. You had a busy day and since your 350 calorie breakfast, you have not had the opportunity to eat. You get home late after a long day of meetings and you are ravenous. At 9 pm you eat an enormous 1500 calorie meal. Added to the 350 calorie breakfast this brings your daily total to 1850 calories. After your late meal you are exhausted and promptly go to bed. Will you gain weight? Let's look at the math: your daily energy expenditure is 2750 calories and you ate 1850 calories. This leaves a deficit of 900 calories. The body cannot make/retain body fat from nothing. In this example, considerably more calories were used during the day than were eaten, leading to a reduction in fat stores when all was said and done. The goal is to figure out how many calories you can have during the day to lose or maintain weight and distribute those calories/foods in a manner that makes you feel your best, including preventing hunger. If you do this regularly, then you will accomplish your goal no matter what time you eat.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nutrition Myth - Carbohydrates stimulate insulin and fat storage

As periodic eaters, humans need insulin to survive. Insulin helps the body store energy to fuel the body’s continuous needs and activities. Insulin is secreted after eating in order to store energy (e.g. glucose, amino acids) into the liver, muscle and adipose tissue (fat)—the body’s primary fuel source. Within about an hour after a meal, insulin levels diminish, leading to an increase in the hormone glucagon. Glucagon signals the body to begin releasing stored energy (glycogen from the liver and muscle, and fatty acids from adipose tissue) into the blood stream to fuel the body’s continuous energy needs, essentially reversing the actions of insulin. This cycle is repeated with every meal.

Insulin plays a major role in keeping us alive, but in short, this hormone is not responsible for weight loss or continuous body fat gains. Only we are in control of our weight. Whether one increases or decreases the size of their fat stores from day to day depends upon the relationship of calories eaten to the amount of calories used through metabolism and daily activity. If, at the end of the day, you are in a caloric deficit (more calories/fat burned than stored), then fat stores will decrease. However, if calories eaten exceed calories used, body fat stores will increase. Insulin is just doing its job, which is storing things, including amino acids, to build muscle. However, it is the person, through eating, who gives insulin the "things" to store. In other words, insulin does not cause a person to become fat. The excess food one consumes leads to the average adult’s growing waistline, and of course that is 100% under the control of the person eating the calories.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nutrition Myth - Sugar makes you fat

All legitimate science agrees that the causes of continuous weight gain in developed nations consists of a variety of environmental, psychological and physiological factors, not sugar and sweeteners.[1] Researchers found that obesity was positively linked with time spent watching TV or at a computer and diets high in fat. Sweeteners are unfortunately guilty by association because of their presence in the foods and drinks (thus calories) we choose to consume. In other words, we can get fat on anything if we eat more calories than we burn. According to a 2003 article in Obesity Research, “The use of caloric sweeteners has risen across the world, and has contributed to an increasing number of calories consumed per day, which leads to weight gain”.[2] The sad truth is that as a society we simply make poor food and drink choices. No one would argue that a diet high in sugar and the low nutrient density foods that deliver it is good for you, but in the end these poor food choices are simply a delivery vehicle for excess calories. There is nothing inherently fat producing about sugar. But, the reality is that sugary foods do make up a significant portion of the typical American’s diet. Coupled with low daily activity, this is a recipe for disaster, tipping the scale in favor of weight gain. The take home message should be more accurately, “reduce junk food intake and increase physical activity to improve health and body composition”. Not, “don’t eat sugar, it will make you fat.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nutrition Myth - High protein diets

high protein foods image

Things have changed over the years in how scientists and nutrition professionals view dieting and what is truly considered “high protein.” When it comes to health, as long as the diet falls within the current and much wider range of acceptable amounts of protein, carbs and fats (45-65% Carbs, 10-30% Protein, 20-35% Fat), then the best diet for producing weight loss is the one that works for the individual. As long as the diet does not vastly exceed the guidelines, weight loss itself trumps the dieting method when it comes to improving health. In other words, weight loss is the primary driver of health improvement rather than the type of diet used. Other important facts to consider are presented here.
The current recommendation for protein is 10 to 30 percent of total daily calories. Therefore, diets that were once considered high in protein (e.g. 40/30/30, Zone Diet) are well within recommended guidelines and are widely acceptable among scientists and nutrition professionals.

Low-carb diets (e.g. Atkins) are those that severely restrict daily carbohydrate intake to below recommended levels (< 130 g/d) and allow unlimited protein and fat intake. Protein intake often falls within guidelines while fat intake exceeds guidelines (>35% of total calories). A recent review evaluating the safety and effectiveness of low-carb versus traditional high-carb, low fat diets has found that low-carb diets produce greater weight loss at six months but the diets are equally effective after one year. The effectiveness of low carb/high-protein diets is likely be due to 1) protein’s increased ability to prolong the feeling of satisfaction when compared to carbohydrates and 2) limiting food choices to mostly protein and fat sources which often leads to fewer calories consumed daily. Despite this, widespread use of low-carb diets is not recommended because of adverse changes in LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol levels. It’s also important to note that drop-out rates were significantly high – almost 50% for both diets -- and that most people who lose weight return to their original weight within three to five years. 
Data accumulated through the National Weight Control Registry and other sources has revealed that people use a variety of dieting and food intake strategies to lose and maintain weight loss long-term. While most participants follow a lower fat diet, there is variability in the amount of protein and carbohydrate used. More consistent among successful losers were certain behaviors including eating breakfast daily, tracking food intake, maintaining a high activity level (mostly walking), limiting TV time and self-weighing regularly. Although participants of the National Weight Control Registry represent a model for long-term weight loss success, this population represents a very small percentage of those who attempt weight loss. Therefore, to lose weight individuals should select sustainable eating patterns and activity behaviors that create a calorie deficit and regularly check weight, inches gained/lost or body composition to determine if adjustments are needed. Gaining continuous visibility of weight changes and self-regulating food intake and activity are critical for maintaining losses.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Get the facts on The Biggest Loser

This is a great example of the difference between reality and television. The contestants on the show get to exist in a controlled environment where their primary daily activity IS activity, and they are medically supervised during their time on the show.  It is not uncommon for contestants to do 4-8 hours a day of intense exercise. Add to this a low- or very-low calorie diet and you have the recipe for weight loss: increased calories out and decreased calories in. Also, especially prior to weigh-ins, dehydration strategies are not uncommon, leading to additional weight loss. So, a huge energy expenditure coupled with a sparse calorie intake yields a dramatic calorie deficit and the loss of fat, muscle and water, yielding impressive numbers on the scale. And no, it’s not safe for most overweight people.
More Info
In the real world, rapid weight loss can lead to weight regain. In fact, there has been a lot of controversy around former contestants regaining much of the lost weight. Generally a 1- 2 lb loss per week (more if you have a lot of weight to lose) creates a realistic lifestyle that, for most people, is more sustainable. If you cannot maintain the severity of the lifestyle necessary to promote rapid weight loss, then you most likely will not maintain the weight loss. For more info, read
Keys to Permanent Weight Loss, and Proven Strategies for Weight Loss.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't Just Sit There, Move!

Weight control is possible without traditional exercise (though there's no substitute for true exercise).
Somehow during the last few decades, somewhere between 20 and 40 years of age, you’ve gained about 20 pounds. This didn’t have to happen--if you had walked an average of 150 more steps daily (which takes about three minutes) during a period you would normally have been sitting, chances are you would still have that same 20-year-old body. If only you’d paced around your office or home while you were on a three-minute phone call, or walked around your house once daily. If you had gone to the gym only ten times each year for approximately half an hour, engaging in a light workout, you would be 20 pounds lighter. And that’s without changing what you ate and drank during those 20 years!

Now, imagine you gained 40 pounds during the last 20 years. Simply double the above numbers and picture yourself 40 pounds lighter. You get the picture. Most people don’t gain weight because they are slothful creatures. Instead, slow, steady weight gain creeps up on us. Many people arrive at a point where they feel it’s too late, the damage is done, it’s too hard to lose weight or they don’t have enough time in their busy lives to make changes.

Take it up a notch

If you need to lose weight and don’t want it to take the 20 years it took to put it on—but at the same time you fall into that category of “no time” or “can’t stick to a diet”—use the formula above and accelerate it up to the point where you can erase the weight over the next year. Like the sound of losing weight without working out and dieting? Basically, you can consume the same foods and fluids but simply move more within your normal daily activities. Here is an example of what a 175 pound person, who does not wish to change his/her lifestyle and eating habits, can do to lose 20 pounds. Refer to “Your Life is Exercise” for additional calorie burning tips.

Start here

Put a stop to the instinctual habit that tells you to take the path of least resistance, the easy way out. Instead, choose to take the path of more resistance anytime you can. In other words, anywhere you can squeeze in some extra steps or movement, do it. Park further out from your destination, pace or stand at home or in the office while on the phone, reading or simply talking to someone. Think “why sit when I can walk or stand”? Get a pedometer and find out how many steps a day you are currently walking. Gradually add an extra 500 steps to your day until you are regularly averaging 2500 steps more per day than you were prior to reading this article. Maintain your same basic lifestyle and eating habits, but incorporate the “move when you can” attitude and stand or pace when performing tasks you previously would have done sitting down. You don’t have to do all this at once; break it up any way you want to. Just average an extra 2500 steps daily. For current physical activity guidelines, click here.

A little goes a long way

For a 175 pound person, every ten minutes of normal walking or pacing while doing something equates to burning approximately 20-30 more calories than sitting down doing the same activity. So, by moving upright for one hour (about 2500 slow steps) more than before, you will lose about 1.5 pounds per month or 18 pounds over the course of a year without working out in a gym (as long as your food intake doesn’t increase). If you did add gym time and a slight reduction in your food intake as well, you could lose significantly more. Not so daunting of a task anymore, is it?
Note: the lighter you get, the fewer calories your body burns, so for every 5-7 pounds you lose, you should add about 500 more steps per day if you choose not to slightly reduce or alter your food intake. Continue the process until you achieve your goal weight.

Tips for extra movement in the gym

Use the same tips recommended in the “your life is exercise” section, but use them in the gym or while going to the gym. 

  • Park your car in a safe place at least 1250 paces from the gym
  • Always pace or stand between sets
  • Circuit train (i.e., move from one exercise to another with little to no rest but rotating body parts)
  • Get all 2500 steps/day using cardio machines. On non-workout days, follow the daily life tips or simply do more steps during the three days you are in the gym using a treadmill, stepper, etc., to make the weekly total.
Bottom line

Everyone sits at least an hour a day; the vast majority of people sit a minimum of eight. Find the parts of the day when you can stand, sit or pace while performing something you would normally do sitting down. No matter what you do or how, just be sure you have added an average of 2500 steps to your daily routine and as you lose weight, slowly increase your steps. Always remember, every calorie counts, in or out. That’s a scientific fact. Remember this: if you are wearing it, you ate it.

So there you have it, the easiest, least painful method to stop or reverse weight gain. This is something anyone can do and—most importantly—maintain.

Your Life is Exercise

Around the House

  • Get a cordless phone if you do not have one. Walk around the house or yard while you chat.
  • Put away the remote control a few days a week and change channels on the TV itself.
  • Forget the car wash! Do it yourself and burn about 200 cal.
  • Cut back on your cleaning service; schedule them less frequently to save money and boost your activity.
  • During commercial breaks on television: Unload one level of the dishwasher. Put in or take out one load of laundry. Clean out one shelf in the refrigerator. Clean out what’s fallen under the sofa cushions. Take out the trash.
  • Put away laundry in smaller loads. You’ll make a few extra trips to burn some extra calories.

  • When traveling by air, walk around the airport till boarding time.
  • Walk rather than using moving sidewalks.
  • Walk to the airport gate or parking lot instead of using a shuttle.
  • Walk to nearby restaurants rather than dining in the hotel.

Errands on the Run
  • Bypass the drive through. Use walk-up options at the bank, pharmacy, cleaners, etc. Park at the back of the lot and walk.
  • Carry smaller loads into the house to make a few extra trips.
  • Hit the mall instead of the Internet.
  • Take a lap of the mall or grocery store before starting to shop.
  • When loading your purchases, park the shopping cart at the front of the car and carry the bags to the trunk.
  • Offer to run errands for an elderly or ill neighbor or friend.

At the Office
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get off the elevator two floors early—walk the rest of the way.
  • Park a couple of blocks away from your office and walk.
  • Use the restroom or coffee maker farthest from your office.
  • Use a smaller water bottle and coffee cup. You’ll get up for refills more often.
  • Take regular breaks and walk once around the office building.
  • Walk to lunch instead of ordering it.
  • Sit on a fitness ball instead of a chair. You’ll burn more calories and strengthen those abs.
  • Waiting for copies? Take a quick walk while the copier finishes your job.
  • Don’t eat at your desk. Take a walk, eat in a nearby park, or climb a few flights of stairs.
  • Visit people’s offices instead of calling or e-mailing them.
  • Walk the entire office a couple times/day. Visit departments you don’t normally deal with.
  • Start an office walking club. You can meet before or after work or even at lunch.
Do these things really add up and make a difference? Refer to the two figures below. They illustrate the impact adding daily movement can have on the same person. All of these “little” tweaks to your daily activity have a significantly greater impact than the daily exercise session. Now, if you did both you’d be golden!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why We Eat When We Know We Shouldn't

I'm full, so why do I keep eating?
There are many things that trigger us to eat. Maybe you were taught to clean your plate, or maybe everyone in your family always ate second helpings. Sights, sounds, smells, situations, locations, emotions- all may trigger appetite, which is the desire to eat. It is important to understand what drives appetite so as to minimize the negative impact of an appetite gone awry. Before we get too far into this topic, let's get a little terminology out of the way.

1.    Appetite- the desire to eat (not a physiological need)
2.    Hunger- the physiological need for nourishment
3.    Satiety- a feeling of fullness and lack of desire to eat

Weight gain and satiety

When one is in a weight gain cycle, fullness is a familiar feeling. While maintaining weight, we may often feel sated, although it probably occurs less frequently. When losing weight, satiety is very rare and hunger pangs become the norm.  But as everyone knows, hunger often has nothing to do with eating.

Why do we consistently eat or drink beyond our needs? There are as many reasons as there are overweight people in the US. The trouble is that the potential solution varies from person to person because of the complexities of human psychology and physiology. With so many factors driving us to eat, most people are faced with the seemingly inevitable slow-but-steady weight gain that plagues society.

Saving calories for a rainy day

Appetite and satiety work together to maintain energy stores and body weight.  Due to the nature of human survival, the relationship between appetite and satiety encourages food intake and energy storage. This becomes a problem when you try to reverse unwanted weight gain and true satiety becomes virtually non-existent. This is because, as discussed above, the feeling of fullness only happens when the trend is weight gain or at certain times during maintenance. Your body worked hard to gather and store those extra calories, and based upon inborn survival mechanisms, the body will try to hold onto them for that “rainy day” when a consistent, reliable food supply disappears. In today's world, though, this day never comes.

Now you know why it is virtually impossible to feel regularly full when dieting. Dieting and purposeful food restriction both go against your body’s instincts, regardless of whether you’re ten pounds or 200 pounds overweight.

While dieting, there are moments of agonizing, uncontrollable hunger. The further you stray from your starting weight, the more severe the struggle. Deeper into your diet, you begin to become increasingly aware of food . . . it's everywhere! You might find yourself obsessing over your next meal and even unconsciously find yourself looking at pictures or signs of foods. Cravings become common and food you never even really liked before looks appealing. As hunger continues to mount, you may start to feel crabby and even go so far as to be annoyed with people for having the audacity to eat anywhere near you. Little by little, the body and mind work on you and without your awareness, you may begin to increase your portions a bit. You formulate excuses as to why it is okay to "cheat" for a meal or two (or three). Finally, you start to plan what you will eat when you eventually lose the weight and complete your "diet". It is amazing all of the subtle and not so subtle tricks the body employs to get you to increase your food intake. Dieting is not natural and it is a small percentage of people who succeed at weight loss and maintenance and appear to have “beat the system”. But don’t worry, there is hope.

Know your enemy

Now we realize what drives us to eat (hunger), and we also know that in today's “land of plenty”, finding and storing food is NOT the problem. The trick is identifying when you’ve had enough and suppressing the urge to eat when you know you don’t need to.

If you’re overweight, or like many people have that roll of fat that never goes away, there is no physical or physiological reason to gain weight (you have plenty of energy stores). Nor should you have an internal “lingering” hunger cue following normal meals. So what continues to drive us to eat? External cues, learned behavior and the environment in which we exist. Memories, experiences, emotions, habits, sensory stimulation and situations can all trigger our appetite and motivate us to eat more.  Of course the simple solution is to move to a deserted island (ever notice how everyone on Survivor loses weight?), but since that’s not likely to happen, we are left with altering our environment.

Recall that appetite is influenced most often by our environment: in social or other situations, we drink when not actually thirsty, and eat when not hungry simply because the food is there or it gives us something to do.

Sound familiar?

  • You cruise into your favorite coffee shop for a small coffee, but you order a 200-400 calorie beverage instead (e.g. latte or mocha)
  • You go out with friends for a few drinks (which of course contain calories), not because you’re thirsty, but to “hang out”
    • A few drinks often become quite a few drinks
  • A "few drinks" is infinitely more enjoyable with a few munchies (generally high in fat and calories)
    • As more drinks are consumed, the ability to make wise food choices diminishes
  • You clean your plate because that’s what you always do, not because you know it’s exactly the amount of food you need
  • Dinner and a movie is almost invariably dinner and a movie and snacks (even though you ate PLENTY at dinner)

What the folks in lab coats have to say

In an important recent study related to satiety, researchers discovered that people “count calories with their eyes and not their stomachs”. Researchers conducted a test using a “bottomless soup bowl” (self-refilling bowl) with one group and a normal bowl of the same size with another group. Participants using the bottomless bowls consumed 73% more soup than the other group. Without the visual cue of the diminishing soup, people were misled into thinking they had not eaten as much as they had, so they kept eating. Here are a few more findings on how the environment affects eating:

  • People who eat with others consume 44% more food than when eating alone
  • Women eat 13% more in the company of men than when eating with other women
  • Snack size, variety of food options, visibility and proximity to food influence how much is eaten
    • At a movie, people eating popcorn from a large bucket ate 33% more by the end of the film than those eating from a medium bucket (even though both groups had previously eaten dinner and the popcorn was 14 days old)
    • When provided with a variety of snack foods (e.g. yogurt, jelly beans, M&M’s) people ate up to 70% more calories
    • People ate Hershey’s kisses at a 46% faster rate when in a clear jar versus an opaque one
    • People ate 5.6 more candies/day when the candy jar was on their desk versus 2-yards away

So what do I do?

Other than our waistlines, we are no different from our ancestors when it comes to satiety. Our early predecessors also ate everything around them. The difference was they didn't have the quantity and variety of foods that we encounter every day. They didn't have the luxury of drive thrus, buffets and snack machines. Our ancestors had to grow it, gather it, catch it (or run from it), and prepare it. The work required to acquire food and stay alive kept people skinny. Taking a page from the past can help guide us to control our weight and appetite: 1) stay busy; 2) a calorie burned offsets a calorie eaten; 3) make food scarce (do not stock your home or surround yourself with a variety of yummy, calorie rich food-if it’s not there, you can’t eat it).

If we had to acquire food as our ancestors did, we would certainly solve society’s weight problem. The energy we would spend to get it would offset the calories we ate once we found it.  What is interesting is that the very traits that led to our survival are now killing us: we are hardwired to seek out food and eat all we can once we find it.

Tricks of the trade

To gain some insight into hunger and how to deal with it, we can look at a group of athletes who truly understand what it is to lose fat (almost all of it) and deal with insane hunger while still trying to function as members of a civilized society. A competitive bodybuilder endures more hunger and food restriction (read misery) than anyone on the planet (who has the luxury of choice).

As such, they have come up with some imaginative and effective methods to take the mind off of food. Here are a few examples:

  • Brush your teeth immediately following a meal: it sends a subliminal message that the meal is over
  • Stick sugarless gum in your mouth every time you get an urge to eat or keep eating when you shouldn’t
  • Drink a diet soda, coffee or tea when an eating urge occurs, or to end each meal
  • Eat slowly and wait 40 minutes after a meal before you decide to give in to dessert or more food; it takes roughly that long for the satiety message to get from your stomach to your brain
  • Stay busy: plan an activity almost immediately post-meal or between meals where eating would be difficult or impossible to do
    • This increases your calories burned rather than your calories consumed, refocuses your attention, and stalls for time until the satiety signal hits
  • Consume foods high in volume and low in calories e.g. BIG salads
  • Use non-caloric sweeteners to satisfy a growing sweet tooth
  • Go to bed early, or save a meal for right before bedtime – you can’t eat when you’re asleep, but you’re more likely to eat more if you go to bed a long time after dinner
    • Humans are always less hungry in the morning than they are at night
  • Take your time eating – take small bites and use small utensils
  • Snack on pickles or air popped popcorn when you just have to eat
  • When all else fails and you are tempted to make a poor food decision, pinch that spot of fat you’re trying to lose and think again
  • When your sweet tooth becomes unbearable (the leaner you get the louder it screams) be sure to save the calories you need to satisfy it – but get the most bang for the fewest calories. If you can, try a lower fat/calorie/sugar option, it may just work
    • dotFIT breakfast bars and protein sticks can be a guiltless dessert that will actually add the proper protein, carbs and fats that you need. Try microwaving them for 20 seconds . . . wow.

Don't Let Your Environment Go To Your Waist (tips for fat-proofing your world)
  • Before completing your meal, have the breadbasket removed or have a portion of your entrĂ©e boxed “to go.” The atmosphere of a long and relaxing dinner can then be enjoyed without the temptation to overeat
  • Although soft music and candlelight can improve one’s enjoyment of a meal, they have calorie intake consequences. Instead of automatically eating a dessert, enjoy a cup of coffee in the pleasant atmosphere
  • Make tempting foods harder to get to, putting them in inconvenient locations (such as in a basement or in a top cupboard or buried under the driveway)
  • At mealtime, portion out your plate in the kitchen rather than having extra food on the table within arm’s reach
  • Decide how much to eat prior to the meal instead of during it. Order smaller quantities (e.g. half-size portions) to avoid excess calories
  • Model the behavior of a person eating the least or the slowest
  • Discourage “grazing” by focusing only on a meal and only when sitting down, preferably at a distraction-free table
  • Don't eat while doing other activities like watching TV or reading. If for some reason you ignore this advice, then pre-serve the portions and allow no “refills”
  • Eliminate the cookie jar. Replace it with a fruit bowl
  • Position healthy, lower calorie foods in the front of the refrigerator and the less healthy foods in the back
  • At buffets and receptions avoid having more than two different foods on the plate at the same time
  • Repackage foods into smaller containers to get used to smaller portions
  • Plate smaller dinner portions in advance
  • Never eat from a package. Always transfer food to a plate or bowl in order to make portion estimation easier
  • Out of sight is out of mind. Don't buy or store poor food choices. The work involved with getting them gives you time to reconsider making a bad choice
  • Stockpile healthy, low-energy-density foods (few calories per ounce or item) to stimulate their consumption and to leave less room for their high-density counterparts
  • Replace short wide glasses with tall narrow ones; it looks like you drank more
  • Reduce serving sizes and consumption by using smaller bowls and plates
  • Use smaller spoons when serving; it's more work and it makes you feel like you've served a lot

Friday, August 10, 2012

Weight Loss & Weight Fluctuation

The Scale Tells the Whole Story Over Time
On any given day, the scale can lie and your true progress won’t be accurately reflected by your weight. This is because body weight can fluctuate on a daily basis due to the amount of fluid we retain.  Foods high in sodium, menstrual cycles, certain medications and bowel movements can increase fluid retention and skew your weight. However, over time the scale tells the whole story. If your weight creeps up after two or three weeks, you’ve been eating more calories than you’re burning.
The opposite is also true – if your weight decreases after two to three weeks, you’ve been eating fewer calories than you’re burning. A steady weight indicates the calories you’re burning and consuming are equal. (See "Weight Control 101" for more.)

Other Ways to Measure Progress
If you’re making progress in at least two of the following areas, you’re on the right track:
  • Inches lost
  • Body fat percentage
  • Clothing size or fit
  • Energy levels

Gaining muscle is another way to gauge your progress. For example, if you’ve gained a pound of muscle, this is not the same as gaining a pound of fat. Gaining muscle is beneficial to your metabolism and strength level. By consistently burning more calories than you eat, muscle gain will taper and fat loss will continue. The scale will eventually capture your results and you will lose weight.

Tips for Weighing In
Be sure to weigh yourself at least once a week. Those who have lost weight and kept it off check their weight on a weekly and even daily basis.  To minimize fluctuations, follow these tips for weighing in:
  • Wear similar clothing each time
  • Use the same scale
  • Weigh in at the same time of day
  • Maintain similar eating and drinking patterns prior to weighing in
  • Weigh in mid-week if you only check your weight weekly. Monday weigh-ins tend to be inaccurate because of food choices and eating habits on weekends

Regular weigh-ins allow you to react to small gains so they don’t become large ones. Daily weighing has been shown to prevent weight gain.  If you want to know exactly how to adjust your intake or activity level on a daily basis, email your weight to the dotFIT Weight Coach and get instant feedback. Click here to send an email to a coach who will provide more info.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Keys to Permanent Weight Loss

Successful Losers Keep the Weight Off
At any given time, nearly 60 percent of Americans are actively trying to lose weight.  It is no surprise that a myriad of weight loss products, diet books and gadgets flood the marketplace. Although many people succeed at losing weight, few manage to keep the weight off for the long haul.  Those who have are referred to as “successful losers” and research studies on these individuals reveal the keys to permanent weight loss.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is the largest ongoing study on long-term weight loss. To be included in the study, you must have lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least one year. On average, the 5,000 participants have lost 60 pounds and maintained the weight loss for nearly six years. The range of weight loss is 30 to 300 pounds, which means any weight loss goal is possible. Interestingly, the odds appear stacked against these individuals as nearly half were overweight or obese as kids and three-quarters have at least one obese parent. So, if you think you’re doomed because of your genetics, here is clear evidence to the contrary. You are NOT destined to be overweight for life and you CAN overcome it by changing certain behaviors. Here are the habits successful losers adopted to drop those unwanted pounds:  
  • Eat breakfast daily
  • Exercise approximately 60 minutes a day
  • Check weight at least once a week
  • Watch less than 10 hours of television per week
  • Maintain a consistent diet on weekends and weekdays
  • Track food intake

Eating breakfast every day helps manage hunger and may prevent over-eating and poor food choices later in the day. When we get extremely hungry, the tendency is to select foods we wouldn’t normally eat. Daily exercise boosts your calorie burn which helps balance out the calories you take in. Remember, the definition of a stable weight is when the calories you consume equals the calories you expend. This doesn’t mean you have to do exercise you don’t enjoy. Most successful losers walk as their primary exercise. Checking your weight regularly helps you stay in tune with your body and allows you to adjust your intake or activity if your weight creeps up. In fact, 44 percent of successful losers weigh themselves every day, and most check at least once a week.  Limiting TV time has a twofold effect – you’re less likely to snack mindlessly and you’re probably up burning more calories than you would be sitting in front of the tube. Eating consistently each day of the week, including weekends, helps prevent you from eating more than you need, which over time leads to weight gain. Participants who had a consistent diet were one and a half times time more likely to maintain their weight within five pounds compared to those who didn’t.2 This is probably because a weekend of over-indulging can wipe out an entire week of progress. Finally, tracking what you eat keeps you aware of what and how much you eat. This is especially important in weight control since most of us underestimate by at least 20-30 percent. (Read "How You May be Sabotaging Your Weight" for a detailed discussion).

Other research has confirmed the findings of the NWCR and identified additional behaviors of sustained weight loss: 
  • Plan meals on most days of the week
  • Track fat and calories
  • Measure food
  • Add physical activity into daily routine
  • Set goals

It’s important to note that all of these behaviors are not required to achieve success, but they are habits that have been shown to be effective.  It is certainly possible to reach and maintain your goal by simply eating less, moving more and adjusting based on whether the scale goes up or down.

Another essential component of long-term weight loss is social support.5,  Whether it’s a friend, coach, health professional or online community, it’s important to have someone who will listen and give feedback. Online weight control programs have become popular because of convenience and the community support they offer. However, the most effective online programs provide structure, ongoing personalized feedback and support.

Why do most people gain the weight back?

In a nutshell, people return to their original weight (and more) when they stop doing what made them successful in the first place. Participants of the NWCR who regained more than five pounds reported exercising less, eating more fatty foods and allowing themselves to overeat more frequently.  It makes perfect sense why the majority of those who go on “fad” diets and other programs lose weight quickly and eventually gain it back. They simply cannot maintain the drastic changes most fad diets require. It’s not that fad diets don’t work; the problem is they only work on a short term basis. Keeping the weight off is the real challenge.

Do what works for YOU

Weight loss can be achieved in many different ways as long as you consistently burn more calories than you consume.  (See "Weight Control 101") However, to achieve and sustain results, follow the example of successful losers who selected behaviors they could maintain for life.  Keep in mind that you can start by making small changes such as taking 10 minute walks, skipping your afternoon soda or increasing your daily steps. You may not drop the pounds as fast as you’d like, but when it comes to weight loss– it’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish. Do what works for you for the long haul and YOU will ultimately become a successful loser.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How You May Be Sabotaging Your Weight

Weight Control Basics
woman with water bottleYou may recall from Weight Control 101 that your weight is determined by the calories you take in and the calories you burn on a daily basis. If you’re like most adults, you’ve been taking in more calories than you burn and you have excess body fat that you’d like to get rid of. If you’re not like most adults, consider yourself warned as experts predict that 9 out of 10 people will become overweight or obese at some point in their lifetime.  This underscores the importance of consistently balancing the calories you take in with the right amount of activity, especially since the majority of people pack on the pounds slowly and steadily without really noticing it. Years of misjudging your intake by just a few calories at a time will end up sabotaging your weight. For example, if you gain the average amount of one pound per year, this means you’re off by only 10 calories a day. After 20 to 30 years, you’ll end up 20 to 30 pounds overweight. To help you avoid this, here are common ways people underestimate the calories they take in and unknowingly eat more than they realize.

What you don’t know WILL hurt you

Research shows that most people: 1) don’t know how much to eat to control their weight;  2) don’t accurately judge the calories they take in and 3) have no idea they take in extra calories in different situations. 
In a recent national survey, only 15 percent accurately estimated how many calories they should eat to maintain their weight.    Ask yourself – how many calories should I eat to maintain my weight? This begs the question – is it possible to maintain a healthy weight without knowing how many calories to eat? Certainly, if you keep regular tabs on your waistline and make the needed adjustments to your diet or activity level. Studies on college freshmen showed that daily weighing helped maintain body weight whereas those who did not weigh daily gained nearly seven pounds in ten weeks.   Since most people don’t weigh themselves daily or even monthly, they don’t notice the weight creeping on. And as you can see, what you don’t know WILL hurt you.

You eat more than you think you do
Let’s say you do know how many calories to eat to manage your weight. The next question is - do you accurately judge how much food you eat? Not according to research. When people are asked to record how much they consume, they consistently underestimate.  , ,   Overweight and obese women tend to underestimate more than other people, and it worsens as body mass index (BMI) goes up.  ,  That is, the higher the BMI, the fewer calories people report eating. Meal size also affects how accurate we are. The larger the meal, the more we misjudge how much we eat. One study demonstrated that participants underestimated a large meal by up to 1,000 calories.   If you ate an extra 1,000 calories once a week without making up for it with more activity, you’d gain almost 15 pounds in a year. An extra 1,000 calories equates to eating one more slice of meat lover’s pizza and one more fruit smoothie. The bottom line is we eat more than we think we do, making weight control quite challenging. 

You eat more and don’t even realize it
Studies have also shown that people unknowingly consume more calories in the following situations:  
• Food is presented in large quantities (restaurants, parties)
• A wide variety of food is present (buffets,  all you can eat)
• More people are present
• Being distracted and doing something else (watching TV)
• Eating out of large packages (bag of chips, tub of ice cream)
• Tempting foods are within reach and within eyesight
• Frequently dining out

By becoming aware of how you eat in these situations, you’ll be better equipped to control the amount of food you take in.

Get informed and take charge

One of the most effective ways to get informed about the way you eat is to track it regularly. People who do lose more weight.   To avoid calorie amnesia, jot down everything you consume right away. Start to pay attention to the calorie content of the items you choose by reading food labels and looking up the calorie content of restaurant foods and beverages. Keep in mind that many beverages contain calories so be sure to count those tea drinks, sports drinks and alcohol.  They add up quickly especially if you’re thirsty. In certain states it is now required by law to post the calorie content directly on the menu board. You’ll think twice once you realize your favorite coffee drink and muffin has 1,000 calories. If you’re really motivated, weigh and measure the amount of food you eat with a food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons and calculate the calories you take in. This pocket size Calorie, Fat and Carb Counter contains thousands of common foods, restaurant items and useful information. Since humans are creatures of habit, you’ll get familiar with the items you eat regularly and measuring will no longer be necessary. The idea is to get educated on how much you eat.
To prevent unconsciously eating excess calories, follow these tips:
  • Eat and only eat. Avoid being distracted during mealtimes or snack times.
  • Eat from smaller plates, bowls and glasses.
  • Portion out your food and avoid “family style” eating or eating out of the package.
  • When you dine out, control the portion sizes by sharing meals or packaging some to take home right away.
  • During social occasions, decide on what you’re going to eat and stick to it. Otherwise you’ll graze mindlessly.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol tends to stimulate appetite and reduce your awareness of what you’re eating and how much.
  • Keep snacks, treats and tempting foods out of reach.
  • The old adage “knowledge is power” is true for weight control if you use it to make informed decisions.

It’s not rocket science if you judge by RESULTS over time

It’s challenging to manage something you aren’t aware of and don’t keep track of. Since only one third of the population acknowledges that calories are responsible for weight gain, it’s no wonder there’s an obesity epidemic. 21 (And by the way, it’s no coincidence that one third of adults have a healthy body weight.) Knowing how much you consume is a key part of successful weight control, but even if you don’t know – the scale will tell you. If the number on your scale increases over time, you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning – PERIOD. The solution is to burn off that extra fuel by moving more and eating fewer calories.  If you don’t measure your results by checking your weight regularly, you’ll end up sabotaging your waistline and likely your health.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Can Supplements Help You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals?

It’s possible.  Depending on what you categorize as supplements, they can be the difference between success and failure for many people. Just look at the success statistics of people using meal replacement bars and shakes to assist in weight loss compared to non-users, especially in long-term weight control (see Figure 1).

Before we start down this road of dietary supplements and weight loss, let’s remember that supplements alone are NOT a weight loss program, whereas diet and exercise alone can be. But properly used and formulated supplements can accelerate progress and make the chore easier, giving users a greater chance of sticking with their chosen method of weight loss. And on that note, let’s look at dotFIT’s position on dietary supplements and weight loss.

dotFIT Worldwide’s position on the use of dietary supplements for assisting weight control

The goal of incorporating a dietary supplement (or drug) into a weight loss program is to assist the user in complying with the daily routine that leads to weight reduction. The supplement ingredients must have safely demonstrated the potential to act in one or more of the following ways:

  • Help create and maintain a calorie deficit by increasing daily calorie expenditure when compared to a non-supplemented state
  • Raise energy levels that may make one more active throughout the day
  • Reduce the drive to consume food
  • Decrease calorie absorption

The user would cease supplementation once the weight goal is reached or when they have their daily routines under control to continue making progress without the supplements. Dietary supplements are appropriate for 1) people with aggressive goals such a time limit (e.g. special events on set dates, making a certain weight class for sport or competition, etc.);  2) athletes preparing for competition that may require/demand very low body fat;  3) people who have failed multiple times at reaching or maintaining weight goals.

Translation: weight loss supplements are intended to help you comply with whatever course you chose to pursue weight loss while living your busy, normal life – i.e. create an easier path to your goal. And they can actually do this by

  1. Helping your body create and maintain a calorie deficit by burning more calories without having to add more activity, and giving you an energy boost so you’re more active throughout the day;  
  2. Curbing appetite;
  3. Helping you feel full sooner;
  4. Decreasing the calories you absorb so you get the satisfaction of eating without all the calories.
  5. All in all making it easier to stick to a reduced calorie diet or exercise plan.
What we know works
Supplements that mimic the actions of successful drugs used for weight loss and meal replacements bars and shakes are the only supplements that actually work.

Drugs and weight loss
All studies show that drug therapy combined with calorie restriction is more effective in both losing weight and maintaining loss when compared to conventional methods. Successful drugs are designed to block calorie absorption and speed metabolism: e.g. Orlistat (Alli), Sibutramine & Phentermine.

The proof
In 19 studies, participants using weight loss drugs that prevent dietary fat calorie absorption and speed metabolism, combined with a dietary/lifestyle regimen, significantly increased total weight loss when compared to subjects using the dietary/lifestyle regimen and placebo.   The treatment groups on average had a three-times greater chance of losing more than 5% of their total body weight and a four-times greater chance of maintaining the weight loss after two years. The problem with drug therapy is that prescription weight loss drugs should not be used for extended periods of time because they bring along known side effects. Therefore, the goal is to deliver safe, natural alternatives using dietary supplements that have the similar mechanisms of action but without the side effects.

Validated safe and effective alternatives
The following products contain the ingredients that have been shown in human clinical trials to significantly accelerate body fat/weight loss when compared to placebo users following the same routines (see below for summary of results).

Fat Release (reduces fat calorie absorption and appetite): adds support for the body’s most active fat burning organ, your liver; helps block dietary fat from entering the body and induces fullness faster and longer (click here for all the science)

CarbRepel (reduces carbohydrate calorie absorption and appetite): helps block carbohydrates/sugars from entering the body and being stored while also working to keep food in the stomach longer in order to deliver an early and longer feeling of fullness (
click here for all the science)

ThermAccel (increases calorie burn while reducing appetite): a natural stimulant to help increase your metabolism and induce you to move more by increasing energy levels while sending energy signals to your appetite center to help reduce intake (
click here for all the science)
Meal replacements and weight loss

In all studies, meal replacements bars and shakes have been shown to be an extremely effective aid to weight reduction and, in almost all cases, more effective than conventional methods of dietary restrictions. Additionally meal replacements have been shown to be just as effective as dietary restriction combined with drug therapy.i Most importantly, continuous use of meal replacements may be the most effective means of all treatments when it comes to maintaining weight loss (see figure 2 below).

Meal replacements are generally used to replace one or two meals a day and allow freedom of choice for the remaining allotted foods/calories.

Meal replacements allow:

  • Between meal snack as an energy boost or hunger killer
  • Portion control: people generally attempt to consume meals to completion, therefore meal portion size significantly impacts a person’s total calorie intake.  Overwhelming evidence validates that the smaller the portions, the fewer daily calories consumed and vice-versa – i.e. people tend to “eat with their eyes not their stomachs”. Use of portion-controlled meals has proven to yield greater weight loss than conventional diet therapy alone. 
  • Accurate calorie counts of total daily food intake when compared to having to estimate the calories of self-prepared or unmarked meals

Figure 1: In all six studies the groups using meal replacements (PMR) as part of their overall calorie intake lost significantly more weight than subjects using the reduced calorie diet (RCD) alone. Heymsfield SB (2003)
Figure 2: In a 1-year follow-up in the groups that were tracked, the subjects still using meal replacements maintained significantly more weight loss than the RCD group. Heymsfield SB (2003)
What happens when you stop using supplements

Meal replacements: properly formulated meal replacements or meal supplements (as they may be called) are food, just in more convenient forms for specific times. You will always eat traditional foods daily but in today’s hectic world, meal replacements should remain part of everyone’s caloric intake to help satisfy hunger between meals and/or replace at least one large meal daily. This allows freedom of choice for other meals such as lunch and dinners.

Dietary supplements: once a user reaches the weight or body composition goal, there is no longer a need for a caloric deficit. The dieter can now increase their caloric/food intake to a maintenance level, which would relieve the need for supplementation.

So there you have it, effective supplements can make the difference especially when it only takes a little help to make things easier. Use meal replacements regularly to curb hunger, allow greater choices for traditional meals and save on your grocery bill. Use dietary supplements to ease the chore and stay motivated by accelerating weight loss and assisting in appetite control.

Simply use our dotFIT program to find out exactly how to use effective supplements within your daily routine and you are on your way to long-term success. And for those of you using the exerspy, well, that makes it too easy because with the exerspy, you can cheat to win

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Weight Control: The Facts Make It Easy - Part II

Visibility allows flexibility – do it your wayTo reiterate, nowhere in Part 1 did we tell you what to eat or do to lose weight.  All we have said is “know how many calories you burn, what you want to weigh and when, and then you’ll know how many calories you get to eat.” And by now you know that the more you move, the more you can eat.

When it comes to accomplishing a weight or body fat goal, all that matters is that you start. What you eat and how you burn calories is no one’s concern but yours. So, on average, just burn more than you eat until you reach your goal. It’s not a program – it’s your life combined with the right tool to tell you all you need to know. That tool is the exerspy.

Here’s what one new user who’s struggled with thyroid disease and weight gain has to say about exerspy:
“I’ve used countless food logs, work out logs, and am an avid health freak.  I didn’t really like online programs I used and the fact that I needed to use multiple programs (one for calorie/nutrition facts, spreadsheets, work out logs, etc.) made it an arduous task.

“I started using the exerspy on Tuesday of this week and it has been such a blessing!  I LOVE IT!  You have done an extraordinary job on the equipment, online program, food log, tracking mechanisms, etc.  I couldn’t be happier.  I wear it all the time and am thrilled about the prospect of what it can do to help me reach my goal/target weight and fitness level.”
What’s her motivation? It’s simple -- she’s able to easily fit the program to her lifestyle.

Side note: Every adult knows the difference between good and not so good food – and of course your calories should be made up of better foods – but hey, you figure that one out because at the end of the day, only the difference between your burn and your consumption determines your weight loss – NOTHING else.

The same formula applies to all of us, including those who eat well and exercise religiously but still have that pesky little spot of body fat that just won’t go away. The answer is the same. Repeat after me, “Eat fewer calories on average than you burn (do it your way) until it goes away”. And always bear in mind, you CAN’T chose to lose fat in from a specific place on your body, like your thighs or stomach.

The Undeniable Facts of Weight Control:

  • Individual total calorie intake is determined by personal activity, body statistics and goal including desired time frame. The foods that make up your allowed calories can be structured to improve health & performance.
  • One single fact determines the rate of weight/fat loss: the average daily calorie deficit. This is defined as the difference between how many calories you burn and how many calories you consume. Weight loss should proceed at a pace that does not compromise health or performance.
  • Exercise is intended to improve your body structure, function/performance, longevity, visual appearance, etc. Exercise also increases daily calorie burn and helps you maintain your desired weight.
You must be the creator of your program or you won’t be the master
The only way you will own a behavioral change is if you create it. Start anyway you can, sticking to this simple rule: burn more calories than you consume, on average, until you reach your goal. Just follow the number.

The good news is that “one good turn deserves another”, meaning, as your body changes and you start to look better, you will also do things better. BUT the first turn has to come easily and on your terms, or you’ll take a second step to failure. Square pegs don’t fit in round holes – you need to own your program because it fits the life you choose, not a life someone else chooses for you. You want to be lean but you need to get there your way. Want maximum visibility and complete flexibility? Welcome to dotFIT Me.

Ready for more? Join us for any of our free webinars and you’ll not only learn valuable information about weight control but you might also win an exerspy.  Just go to to register for the next session.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Weight Control: The Facts Make It Easy - Part I

If you know what to do, then why CAN’T you control your weight?The simple answer to the question is motivation, because everyone knows how to lower their weight – everyone. Yes, ALL adults know (albeit many are in denial) that their undesirable or oversized fat stores are a result of eating or drinking more than they need. Therefore, everyone knows the one and only answer is to eat less, move more or a combination of the two – hello!

I travel and lecture all over the world and I have yet to meet an adult who truly doesn’t know that they’re overweight because they eat or drink too much. Nor have I met a person who wants to become overweight. So why is the majority of the adult population overweight? The first part of the answer is that people can’t see or feel daily weight changes. The average adult gains 1-3LBS per year, or in daily numbers, ~1/365 -1/182LBS per day (or an average of 10 to 30 calories per day more than you burn). This leads to the second part. Body fat creeps up so slowly it’s easy to ignore it until you’re forced to put energy into losing weight – and the perceived effort, which is any weight loss program or method, requires motivation. Motivation to change your lifestyle means motivation to change your behavior, and it requires lots of thinking, planning, actions and sometimes counseling.  And the method you choose may not fit your lifestyle, which means you ultimately achieve weight regain. Yet, as previously mentioned, you DO know why you are overweight.

How do we lower the need for motivation?
Let’s go back to where we started. You are overweight because you ate more than you moved, meaning more than necessary. You also know that now you need to eat less and/or move more to fix it. Okay, nowhere in this conversation did anyone tell you what to eat or how to move, right? So what’s the simple answer to reversing the problem WITHOUT life-changing or threatening motivation?

You CAN eat ANYTHING you want – you just CAN’T eat EVERYTHING you want

Meaning, do what you do but just a little less and/or a little more. Reverse the behaviors that got you here. That’s right, no lifestyle change is required, just a minor adjustment. The rest will take care of itself. As soon as you make a big deal out of losing weight, you take your first step toward failure.

To succeed you only have to pay attention to a number, but you need to know what that number is.
You WON’T manage what you CAN’T see and you CAN’T manage what you DON’T know
To successfully achieve your goal weight YOUR way, you need to know how many calories you use every day so you know how many you can eat to lose weight or not get fat. Now you have something to manage that’s controllable daily: simple numbers.  And remember, numbers don’t lie.

Motivation will come from seeing body fat coming or going in real time at any time -- hourly, daily, weekly, etc.  When you can SEE your daily body fat gains and losses, it’s simple to manage them because it doesn’t take much effort to eat one less bite or take 10 extra steps to stay on track. The “icing on the cake” is that you will actually be motivated by having visibility into real time changes in your body fat. When you use a flexible program like dotFIT Me, you can view hourly and daily changes in weight and body fat as opposed to waiting until they are confirmed by the scale or change in clothing size. Flexibility is critical to your success.  We’ll explain why and how in
Part 2

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Weight Control 101

One factor determines your weight …calories.
Controlling your weight comes down to one thing - managing calories.  Your body is a complex machine that requires fuel to run your metabolism and perform all movement. Calories from the food and beverages you consume provide this fuel. If you burn all the fuel you take in, your weight will remain stable. If you end up with excess fuel that isn’t burned, it will be stored as body fat and your weight will increase. Similarly, if you burn more fuel than you take in, you’ll lose weight – it’s that simple. By managing the calories you take in and the calories you burn, you can successfully control your weight.
So why have the majority of adults become overweight or obese in recent decades? Taking in more fuel than the body burns mostly as a result of lifestyle changes. Manual labor is now performed by machines and computers. Very few calories are burned during our daily routine because work, transportation, recreation and entertainment are mostly sedentary. People eat out more frequently and enticing food is offered everywhere in large quantities, day or night. Because humans have a natural tendency to preserve energy and eat even when we’re not hungry, modern lifestyle easily leads to unburned fuel and unwanted weight gain.

Beware of the creeping waistline

Experts predict nine out of ten people will be overweight or obese at some point in their lifetime.   However, most people don’t realize they’re becoming overweight because it happens fairly slowly. The average yearly weight gain among adults is one to three pounds.  This means most people are off by only 20 to 30 calories a day.  Small changes such as skipping those last few bites or taking 200-300 extra steps per day will keep you trim and away from weight loss diets. But keep in mind as you get older, you’re likely to burn fewer calories because your daily routine changes.  Because of this, you’ll have to become aware of the calories you take in and how much (or how little) you move.  And to keep your weight in check, you’ll need to get on the scale or measure your waistline more than once a year.

Boost your calorie IQ

One of the most effective weight control tools is tracking what you eat. An old fashioned pen and paper work just fine but online trackers also offer support and feedback. After a week or so, you’ll be amazed at how much you learn and your calorie IQ will get a huge boost. Those who consistently track what they eat lose more weight and are more successful at keeping the weight off.  Doing so will help you decide where to cut back – skip a regular 20 ounce soda and save 250 calories, switch from whole milk to skim milk and save 50 calories a cup, go for regular coffee instead of a regular blended drink and save 300 calories. If you’d rather reduce the portions of the foods you currently eat, that is a good option. Remember, small changes tend to be the most effective because they withstand the test of time.

Check your surroundings

Scientific studies reveal that your surroundings influence the amount we eat.  The bigger the portions, the more you’ll eat. If you see or smell tempting foods, you’re likely to eat them. If you’re in a social setting, at a buffet or drinking alcohol, you’ll probably eat more. If you watch TV while you eat, you’ll overeat. So control your environment by limiting portion sizes, keeping tempting foods out of sight (and out of mind) and game planning before social events. For instance, you may decide to eat or exercise before the party.  In any case, be conscious of your environment otherwise you’ll take in more calories without even noticing it.

Step up your activity level

Every calorie you consume or have stored on your body can be burned through activity. If weight control is the goal, step up your activity level. Start by determining how active you are by using a pedometer to measure the steps you take. Gradually increase your daily steps any way you can – short walks, more chores, pacing while watching TV or talking on the phone and of course, climbing stairs at every opportunity. If you prefer the gym, that’s fine too as long as you’re burning more calories by working harder or adding to your regular workouts. Keep in mind that the more active you are, the more fuel your body burns. This means you can speed up your weight loss efforts or choose to eat more. For current physical activity guidelines, click here.

Monitor your progress and adjust

Monitor your progress at least once a week by weighing in or taking your circumference measurements. For accuracy purposes, it’s best to check your weight at the same time of day with the same clothing. Also, consider weighing in mid week because weight fluctuations tend to occur after a weekend of dining out or indulging. Because weight can fluctuate on any given day, judge your progress over time. If your results aren’t moving in the right direction after any two to three week period, you’ll need to adjust. Reduce the calories you take in or increase movement until you make progress.

Set goals and get support

Set a short term and long term goal and write them down.  In doing so, you make a commitment to yourself which helps propel you into immediate action. Healthy weight loss for most people is half a pound to two pounds per week but the more weight you have to lose, the faster you can lose it. One pound of body fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. Use the table below to determine how many extra calories you’ll have to burn or cut out of your diet each day for different weight loss goals.