Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Successfully Eat Out on a "Diet"

How to Successfully Eat Out on a "Diet"
Eating out can be a huge source of stress for the person trying to watch their weight go down and not up!  Many restaurants serve food on serving platters rather than plates, and the enormous portions seem right because they are in proper scale to the platter.  Additionally, they want their food to taste good, so they don't skimp on sauces and fatty additives that can make your waistline expand!  With that in mind, I have a few ideas for navigating successfully your next restaurant experience. 
  • Never go out while hungry. You’ll find yourself nibbling on everything that comes your way.
  • Always go for the baked or broiled alternatives.  They can be very tasty and are far less calories and fat than foods prepared with frying.  Always ask how an entrée is prepared to ensure that your selection is not swimming in butter or other fattening sauce.
  • For pasta selections, choose a marinara sauce instead of a white cream sauce.
  • Order a healthy appetizer, salad, or small-sized entrée for your meal.
  • Select white chicken or turkey meat rather than dark meat, removed the skin.
  • Avoid the "all you can eat" and buffet-style restaurants.
  • Split a meal with a friend.
  • Get a doggie bag before the meal and put in a portion of the food when it is first served.
  • Avoid foods that have been prepared in heavy cream.
  • Eat slowly! Put your fork down between bites. It takes the stomach about 20 minutes to realize that it is full.
  • Order your salad or potato with the dressing, butter, sour cream, gravy and other extras on the side.
  • Trim all visible fat from meat.
  • Select fresh fruit, sorbet or frozen yogurt for dessert.
  • Watch the alcohol… it is loaded with calories and can lower your defenses against food, causing you to eat more.
  • Beware of the breadbasket. It comes early and can be refilled several times. Ask that it be brought with the meal and limit yourself to one serving.
  • Water is your best beverage choice. Order diet pop, tea, and coffee with artificial sweetener. Go light on the sugar and cream.
The key is to plan what to order in advance and stick to it. Decide on your priorities before going and avoid looking at the entire menu. Many restaurants offer on-line menus that you can check in advance, so you are ready with a healthier choice.  Speaking of choices, you have them.  So if you really want the burrito, have it, but avoid the chips, rice and beans.  Or if you really want that 600 calorie slice of cheesecake, have a light salad to balance out the meal.  Planning ahead can really help keep you on track! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Walking

Not long ago, a woman came to me in a terrible state.  She'd lost her job, gained weight (and she was already heavier than health would dictate), was depressed, and she needed to start moving.  Problem was, she had it in her head that the only way she could be successful was to "kill" herself with 3 plus hours of intense exercise a day.  What?!  She also felt that she should be doing exercises that incorporated upper and lower body, since those would burn more calories.  And she had just been through boot camp program (which she didn't finish),  that advised her she should only participate if she could walk a mile.  Alas, she couldn't.

Back tracking to the beginning, she was sedentary, and just beginning an exercise program.  She was heavy (about 300#), so movement would initially be difficult, and potentially hazardous.  When I tested what she could do, even a sidestep with a side raise was too much for her.  I could tell that if her mind set didn't change, she would continue to be unsuccessful, and continue down the wrong path.

What I recommended was a walking program to begin.  Walking, especially as you can begin to walk briskly (equal to or greater than 3.5mph, according to the CDC), can be a great way to get in shape and stay in shape.  While the 3.5 mph is a guideline, you need to target your heart rate to 50-70% Maximal Heart Rate (MHR), or 5-7 on your scale of 1-10 perceived exertion.  You can also use the Talk Test:  you should be breathing deeply, but still be able to talk.    Proper posture and form are important during your walk, as well.  Shoulders should be back, with the arms swinging at the sides, tummy tight, and eyes forward.

Begin with a small goal that you can easily reach, and stay with that for a week.  Plot out a mile in your neighborhood, for example, and walk that mile every day for the week.  Then add on just a quarter mile more for the next week.  Little by little, your body will adjust and start to change for the better.  Your endurance will increase.  You will be able to walk a bit faster.  Add some music you love and VOILA!  Success!

To get started try this 12-week walking program from the Harvard Medical School.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breaking the Cycle of Gaining and Losing

Breaking the Cycle of Gaining and Losing
Are you on the third or fourth time losing a substantial amount of weight?  Or do you tend to struggle with the same 5, 10, or 20 pounds on an ongoing basis?  You are not alone.  This is a very common struggle, and one that I see all the time with clients.  One extremely important rule of thumb:  There is NO amount of exercise that will compensate for overeating or a bad diet.  But, if you don't exercise and you are constantly struggling with your weight, you will put on pounds if you stop exercising. 
So, exercise is non-negotiable.  You need to do it for numerous health reasons and also to help burn some extra calories, but what else can you do to stack the deck in your favor?
Go Gradually into the great diet beyond...
If you are losing weight at a break neck pace, for longer than your first two or three weeks, you have made changes that will be very hard to maintain over the long haul.  Whether you decided to go on a "crash" diet, or something fashionable at the time, or if you've reduced your calories by too much, you will find that your body will fight back.  Your body wants to protect it's fat stores.  If you lose too much too fast, your body will start to send signals to eat more.  You will have cravings.  Your metabolism will begin to slow down.  And this will backfire on you in the end.  Go gradually.  You know what your are supposed to do.  Eat more veggies that will fill you up and give your body the nutrients it's really craving.  Reduce your "fluffy foods"--white breads, pasta, rice, and desserts.  Be honest with yourself.
Avoid your triggers...
Are there certain foods that are addictive for you? Are there certain places you go where you are guaranteed to overeat?  Avoid them at all costs.  Yale University researchers recently found that some foods can be as addictive as drugs.  No kidding.  Is this why the peanut M&M's seems to take you over?  Later, as you view then entire super sized empty bag, you wonder what happened?  Why couldn't you stop?  I say, don't even start.
Control Emotional eating...
A study published in Obesity found that people who eat in response to emotions are more likely to regain the weight they lose.  A related study found emotional eaters don’t lose as much weight as those who don’t use food to cope.  If you are an emotional eater, try to examine your emotions before you begin to eat each meal.  If you are struggling with something or upset, try to face those emotions head on, and solve the problem directly if you can.  Talk to someone, reach out, or write your feelings down in a log.  I am a HUGE fan of logging--food, exercise, emotions--this helps you see what you are doing and why.  Be honest with yourself, no one else has to ever see what you write down.
Reward yourself...
When you are successful, reward yourself, but not with food.  Food should never be a reward if you struggle with weight.  Instead, a nice hot bath with candles and your favorite fragrance, a massage, a spa day, or new clothes are great options for rewarding yourself when you do well.
Let it go...
If you make a mistake, let it go.  The next meal is a great place to start fresh.  No, you haven't ruined the day.  No, you can't keep the mistake going indefinitely.  Each moment is a new opportunity.