Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eating Out and Losing Weight

Here we are again…almost in the holiday season! It’s a time when we tend to get out of our routines with extra events to attend and other things to do. This usually means it becomes more challenging to keep up with your weight loss routine and working towards those weight loss goals. I’m guessing that some of you will be eating out more between now and the end of the year, whether it’s long days at the office (including lunch at your desk), dinner business meetings, or getting together with friends and family. Eating out can be difficult to navigate and keep yourself on track, or at least to not lose any ground. Here are some suggestions that might make it easier to get through eating out while losing weight and being healthy.

First, prepare your mind. Take a look at the menu beforehand, preferably when you aren’t already hungry. I like to think of it the same as looking at a map before you get in the car: it tells you what you’ll see and what obstacles you’ll encounter. This way, you have the opportunity to select what you’re going to have before you sit down at the table, or run out to grab a bite. You can keep an eye out for ingredients that might be counterproductive to weight loss, such as cream based sauces and dressings and fried foods. If it’s available, look at the nutritional information as well. This might be surprising to you. One time, I was meeting a friend for lunch and was looking at the menu beforehand. Out of curiosity, I compared a cheeseburger and a chicken wrap. I was shocked to learn that the burger had significantly fewer calories than the wrap! That made my decision easy when I sat down and ordered.

Second, prepare your body. Drink lots of water before and during the meal. Not only will this make you feel less hungry when you order, it will help counteract the high amounts of sodium you are likely to consume. Make sure to include water during the meal as well, for the same reasons.

Finally, help your body process the food. A good cardio session before or after (not immediately, but perhaps the same day) has several benefits. It helps the body to burn some of those additional calories you ate, compared to what you might have prepared at home. All that sweat has to do with electrolyte balance, such as sodium. Plus, you’ll feel better for sticking to your regular routine.

Eating out doesn’t have to be the end of your weight loss plan as you know it. If you are prepared, choose wisely, and exercise regularly, the occasional meal out can be tasty and not a long term detriment to your goals. Check out those menus and educate yourselves!

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The "Smart" Way to Count Calories

Well, here we are in the middle of summer already. Temps are hot, calendars are busy and swimsuits are everywhere. I hope you are enjoying a healthy summer full of fun!

As we know, weight loss is a numbers game: you have to burn more than you consume in order to lose weight. I mentioned in a previous blog that we tend to underestimate our calorie intake and overestimate our activities. These problems can be greatly reduced if you track them in some fashion. It used to be that the only option was a good old fashioned paper and pencil. Now with internet programs we have so many options at our disposal. If you are one of many with a “Smartphone” then you have the entire world of apps at your fingertips. There are tons of health and fitness apps out there, and many of them are free. The trick is to find the ones that work the best for you.

Let’s talk about calorie intake first. Take a look at your diet and generally determine the types of food you eat and where you eat them. Do you tend to grocery shop and make most of your food at home? Do you eat out quite a bit, even if it’s for work? Are there any unique, special foods in your diet that most people don’t typically eat? These all need to be considered when you are selecting a calorie counter app. If you eat out consistently, check to see if the app has those places and the foods you eat, or close substitutions. Apps that provide a place for you to save foods that aren’t in their database are a good idea, especially if you have a particular food regularly.

Next, take a look at your activities. If you are a walker/runner type person, there are specific apps that can tell you the distance of your chosen path. Many companies have apps where they have people demonstrate fitness activities from weightlifting to aerobic-type movements to yoga to, full workouts, to, well, you get the idea. Some of these apps may show you the number of calories, but others may not. For the purposes of calorie counting and balance (hopefully a deficit to lose weight), use the ones that you are most likely to use on a consistent basis.

The most comprehensive apps combine the two elements into one. The user can input their dietary choices via an extensive database, include activities such as exercise and even water intake. Once you input your personal information such as height, weight, desired goals, etc, they can help guide you. The ones used by my clients also show a calorie deficit/surplus for the day. Having all of your calorie information in one place makes it easy to click and input, versus going to several apps and trying to put it all together yourself.

Bottom line, as with many things, is to try a few and see what works best for you and your lifestyle. Make sure whatever app you select is one that you will use to help you reach your goals. It will help you be “smart” about weight loss!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weight Loss Has Gone To The Dogs

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for spring and warmer weather! I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks, while I’m taking my dog out for a walk, that there are more and more people out walking their dogs. The dogs look and act like they’ve been released from a torturous winter indoors. I started to think about what the life of a dog looks like and realized we can learn a lot from them and apply it to a weight loss routine. I know it may sound silly, but when you observe their diet, exercise and sleep patterns, they have the keys to a healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s look at the food. First of all, there are the ingredients of dog food. In reading the ingredients for the food my dog eats, it includes things like salmon, rice, oatmeal and what appears to be a canine version of a multivitamin. It’s a balanced meal in one spot. Then, us humans portion it out for them. Whether the dog is a grazer or eats the bowl in one “sitting,” they have the opportunity to get the right amount of food. Then, there is the issue of treats. For dogs, we give them treats sparingly, every once in awhile. They typically get excited about a treat and it’s an important event they look forward to. Imagine if a human were to treasure a “treat” that way. And what happens when our dogs get fat? We decrease the portion size of good food, so they still get the nutrients and watch the amount of treats. Seems pretty simple, but then someone else does all this for them. For the humans, we can use the same approach: eat a balanced diet, watch portion size and have treats in moderation.

So I mentioned that more dogs are out and about these days. Quick question for you: how many times have you seen a dog NOT want to go for a walk or go to the park or join you hiking? They love to exercise, move around and even play with other dogs. Some time running around in the sun or jumping through water on a hot day and look like they are having the time of their life. Dogs know how to enjoy exercise. This one is probably the most difficult for humans to follow. My suggestion would be to find some type of exercise you thoroughly enjoy, whether it’s walking around a park, riding bikes or taking a Zumba class, maybe find a friend to join you for motivation!

Finally, there is the sleep component. When dogs are tired, they find a comfy place, lie down and go to sleep. Being the busy humans we are, sleep is often further down on the priority list, even behind exercise. Getting adequate rest is important for weight loss, since you need to recharge those batteries for another day.

For those of you that don’t know, I have a little dog named Izzy. She is five pounds (small for her breed) and skinny. She hates carbs, her favorite foods are salmon, shrimp and steak, she spins in circles everywhere she goes and curls up for naps about four times a day. I’m trying to adopt the Izzy way of life, except for the spinning – I’d get dizzy so I’ll just exercise a little more.

So let your weight loss go to the dogs!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weighing In On Selecting a Diet

I know, “diet” is a four letter word that most of us would prefer to not think about. Watching consumption of calories, carbs and so many other things can be a drag. The origins of the word “diet” literally mean “manner of living.” When looked at in that light, it could mean how and what you eat versus the negative restrictive regimens we commonly associate with the word. With all of the programs out there, it can be overwhelming to select the one that’s right for you, the one with the greatest chance of success with healthy weight loss and maintenance afterward. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting your next eating program.

First, let’s look at enjoyment of the foods included. Are these foods that you would normally eat simply because you like them? Your family is another factor in this – do your roommates, spouse, children, etc also enjoy these foods. This would eliminate the need to eat differently or prepare multiple meals.

Next, availability is a factor to consider. Are the foods in the diet readily available to you? For example, some programs use specific brands of food. Take a look to see if those foods are at the local grocery store. If not, what type of lead time is required to order them online and have them delivered. Your travel schedule is also something to consider…travelers may not be the best candidate for programs with uncommon foods.

As with almost everything else, cost is a consideration when selecting a plan. When looking over the plan, both as an overview and at the detail level, what is the cost associated with following the program? Some foods are only available at specialty grocers or via mail delivery, and may be more costly than foods available at big box grocers. Size of your family is also a consideration here, as the single person’s budget varies greatly from a family of five.

The final factor I’ll address here is the sustainability of the plan. When looking at yourself in one year, are you able to see yourself eating the same way, or have you reverted back to old habits in some fashion. As I mentioned earlier, a “diet” is a “manner of living.” Your eating regimen should be something you can maintain long term, with small tweaks to address your short term goals.

There are huge sections of stores that advertise dozens of different diets. Do your research and be sure to consider these points, such as enjoyment of food, food availability and cost and your ability to sustain a particular option. Making an informed decision will lead to motivation and a greater opportunity for success in reaching your weight loss goals!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Setting SMART Goals

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are getting back into the “normal” routine. Many of you have made some New Year’s resolutions – I hope you are successful so far in keeping them. One of the top ten resolutions people make is to lose weight. As you are putting together your game plan to accomplish this resolution, I would imagine you are setting some goals. Setting the goals are as critical to the process as reaching them. One method in creating goals is to use the SMART method. This is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. For this blog, I’ll take the ever popular “I want to lose weight” goal and apply this principle.

Specific: The S helps you to narrow down your goal to something very specific. It should answer questions like what am I trying to accomplish, and possibly reasons for wanting to reach this particular goal. For our example, it might be “I want to lose 20 pounds to improve my overall health.” This is more detailed than losing weight and shows a precise end result.

Measureable: The M is to determine how you will measure your success in reaching your goal. This can be simple when it comes to weight loss, as many people use a scale to calculate weight changes. Building on our earlier statement, it might look something like this: “I want to lose 20 pounds, based on my home scale, to improve my overall health.”

Attainable: The A exists to check if your goal is attainable based on factors such as your attitude, abilities and skills. Attitude is a critical part of the weight loss process, you definitely have to be in it to win it so to speak. Are you willing to make some sacrifices to achieve this goal? Your physical ability also plays a huge role. If you have a broken ankle, it might be more difficult to achieve this goal in the timeframe you desire.

Realistic: The R is one of my favorites…is the goal you have set realistic. You have to be willing and able to reach your goal. Someone who wants to lose 20 pounds in one week will probably be disappointed and not obtain their desired results. If you are unwilling to change your eating habits to accommodate weight loss, your results may not be ideal.

Timely: The T is to set a timeframe for achieving your goal. Having a deadline in your goal can hold you more accountable as your strive to reach your goal. In our example, it might look like this: “I want to lose 20 pounds, based on my home scale, to improve my overall health by May 1st. To do this I will join a health club and workout with a personal trainer.”

As you can see, making your goals more specific actually helps you to create a roadmap to reaching your preferred result. So set some goals and get moving – I know you can do it!