As I was prepping dinner one night, my 5-year-old sauntered by and declared in his most dramatic voice “wow, she lost a lot of weight.” My initial thought was utter cluelessness and then I realized he had caught sight of the Nutrisystem TV commercial showcasing drastic weight loss. Mind you, this is a happy go lucky 5 year old who is generally unaware of the pressures of everyday life, so his comment gave me great pause. This was followed by my 4 year old daughter quoting “bye-bye belly fat” followed by a flurry of giggles. Why did this weight loss commercial catch their attention? I pondered; what are we teaching our youth about their bodies? Already, two young ones, who in reality probably never gave their own body weight much thought, are picking up the messages that fat = bad and skinny = good. Already receiving messages of shame regarding our food choices & body weight. Yet, despite the shame & constant messaging that our life will magically improve with weight loss, we as a nation are still overweight, still depressed & still sedentary. We have turned food into the enemy, putting it in the same category as other addictive substances. The catch is, food is essential for life; we cannot sustain ourselves without it. Yet, we still are unable to make peace with food & stop thinking of food as the one barrier to our life of everlasting skinniness.
The intuitive eating & mindful eating movements have made great strides in changing our toxic relationship with food. However, they don’t offer the quick fix of diets & many people are simply unwilling to put in the long-term effort (i.e. slow results) required for healthy lifestyle weight loss success. Next month’s blog will highlight some of the main principles of these eating movements (notice the absence of diet) and how we can incorporate them into our life.
Lastly, it is useful to remind ourselves, that health isn’t always about weight. An extreme crash diet, may achieve your weight loss goal, but does it accomplish your long-term health goals?
There is obviously a reason diets are advertised over and over, they do not achieve sustainable weight loss. Sustainable being the key word.
After reading Loving Your Food, I thought long and hard about my current eating habits. While I enjoy the process of cooking, I admit the pleasure I derive from eating pleasure is less than desirable. My eating life has turned into a multi-tasking marathon; it is far easier for me to stand up and complete unfinished tasks as I mindlessly shovel food in my mouth (OK, maybe not shovel, but certainly not eating in the most dignified manner). Obviously, as an RD, this is certainly not good practice as half the time I don’t even realize what I am eating. This article was a good reminder that the act of eating is one of pleasure that should truly be enjoyed. When we rush and multitask while consuming food, that pleasure is gone. Furthermore, we miss the benefit of making mindful choices that not only taste good, but also are also good for us.
The last few days I have tweaked some of the habits that crept into my daily life. I actually sit down and look at my food., I take the time to drink water throughout the day & am taking time to make foods that I alone enjoy. I’m rediscovering that eating is for sustenance and pleasure.
Yesterday, as I browsed through various mailers, I came across a store ad featuring a woman clad in a skimpy fitness outfit. Inside the flyer were various specials for fitness equipment. I found myself shaking my head at the irony of this ad; given less than a week ago mailers were featuring glutinous amounts of food (and toys). New Year’s resolution season has officially hit. As discussed in a precious blog. I am not big on the all or nothing mentality of New Year’s resolutions, as they often set us up for failure. As I was contemplating the year of resolutions, I came across this article The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions which has a completely different way of looking at how we make resolutions. After decades of being told to practice self control (eat less, spend less, exercise more) we have failed miserably. The article goes on to say the way we have viewed self-control is wrong. The real key? Social emotions. “Unlike reason and willpower, they naturally incline us to be patient and persevere. When you are experiencing these emotions, self-control is no longer a battle, for they work not by squashing our desires for pleasure in the moment but by increasing how much we value the future.”
My recommendation for a resolution this year? Read this article and as the author states “reflect on what you’re grateful to have been given. Allow your mind to step into the shoes of those in need and feel for them. Take pride in the small achievements on the path to your goals. Doing so will help ensure that every future New Year’s Eve will have more to celebrate than to regret.”
Humans are (still) social creatures wired to connect. It’s true.
And since in addition to loving food, we love people and serving others, we will always keep the conversation going about how to have a better conversation: one that leaves you and the other person feeling inspired, engaged, and basically — really good.
Watch this short TED Talk: 10 ways to have a better conversation
(It’s not just about eye contact…as she says: there’s no reason to show you are paying attention…if, in fact…you are paying attention!)
1. Don’t multi-task (physically or mentally). Be present.
2. Don’t pontificate: if you want to state opinions without discussion, write a blog! Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.
3. Use open-ended questions: what was that like, how did that feel, what do you think.
4. Go with the flow – meaning, let thoughts come as you are listening but let them go. Don’t check out of listening because you’re cueing up that random thought or story you want to share.
5. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. All experiences are individual.
7. Try not to repeat yourself, it’s condescending and boring.
8. Stay out of the weeds. That detail you are trying to remember (exact year or place) really isn’t that important to others.
9. Listen. This is the most important skill humans can develop. No man ever listened himself out of a job (quoting Calvin Coolidge).
10. Be brief.
Do all of these and be prepared to be amazed.
In an effort to simplify my life this holiday season, a theme that resonates with me every year, I have been thinking about ways to pare down my life. This thought started with a simple trip to the grocery store where I noticed the shelves were filled with an overabundance of holiday food items, that sadly, go to waste. It goes without saying that we live in a world of abundance, particularly when it comes to food. Of course, this is not a blog about world hunger, but it certainly gives you something to think about in this season of plenty.
Obviously, being a nutrition professional, I have a love of food so I am not going to totally forgo the joy of baking, just stick to my favorites that I know will be savored by family & friends alike. My personal favorite holiday treat is Hazelnut Maple Biscotti; nothing beats this divine combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.
So, I will savor my biscotti and all the simple pleasures the season has to offer.
Hazelnut Maple Biscotti
Hazelnuts (a tree nut) are a good source of folate & dietary fiber.
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup hazelnut butter (I ground my hazelnuts which is actually pretty simple)
¼ cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-tablespoon hazelnut liquor (optional)
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts
Semi-sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate for drizzle
Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat. In a medium bowl, cream together maple syrup, hazelnut butter and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and liquor, blending well. In a larger bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend. Make a well into dry ingredients, add egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Add nuts. (Knead by hand if necessary). On a lightly floured board, divide dough into half and roll into 2 14-inch logs. Place logs on prepared sheet, then flatten about 1 inch high. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves spring back when touched lightly. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reset oven to 300. Slice cookies on the diagonal. Place slices flat on baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes (a lot of this process is trial and error; I like my cookies crisp so I bake longer). Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with chocolate (or dip in chocolate) if desired.
Last month’s blog covered Part 1 of habits for weight loss & maintenance. The article outlined the 7 Habits of People Who Lost 30 + Pounds & Kept the Weight Off As stated previously, while none of this is earth shattering, it is another reminder that successful weight loss & maintenance require life long healthy habits.
5. Daily exercise is a priority
Almost all (90 percent) registry participants exercise for about one hour every day. This habit is especially effective because nutrition & exercise work hand in hand for weight loss. Additionally, working out can help build more defined muscles. The most effective ways to change your body composition is to add strength training and/or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your workout routine.
6. Weekly Weighing
Seventy five percent of registry participants weigh themselves at least once each week. While weighing may not be the best tool for everyone, for some, the number on the scale can also be a motivation to implement healthy habits in the first place. For the study participants, hitting an “all-time high in weight” is a common trigger for someone to want to lose weight. Frequent weighing also helps participants avoid the scale creeping up without noticing. Monitoring weekly can catch a one- to two-pound weight gain. It’s a good idea to weigh in occasionally, but guilt-tripping yourself each time you step on a scale is a big no-no. Instead, think of that number as a valuable data point that can help you troubleshoot and plan for the coming weeks.
7. No Binge TV watching
Finding time for healthy habits can be challenging so why waste your precious time engaging in a sedentary activity like TV watching. This doesn’t mean you have to give up television to see success, but you should limit your screen time. Most registry participants watch less than 10 hours a week. By limiting screen time, they can make more time for other activities (i.e. exercise).
The Bottom Line
It would be nice to think that these people are privy to some super secret way to lose a lot of weight and keep it off. But the simple truth is that there is no secret; it takes hard work, consistency and patience to see results that last.
Last month’s blog covered the topic of long-term weight loss success. The age-old question, how do I lose weight and keep it off? The recent article titled 7 Habits of People Who Lost 30+ Pounds — and Kept the Weight Off is certainly relevant to that question. The study participants are on the National Weight Control Registry & have successfully lost weight that has been maintained for at least one year. While none of this information was new or earth shattering, it is a good reminder that successful weight loss & maintenance require life long healthy habits, not a diet.
They eat fewer calories than the average American
Over the years science has shown a calorie is not just a calorie. It’s the quality of calories that is important. 100 calories of fiber-filled apple slices can help you feel fuller longer than 100 calories of licorice. Counting calories is helpful, but can be a tedious process that is not conducive to your lifestyle. This is where portion control can help; controlling portion size will help you determine the right amount of food (i.e. calories) for you.
They eat often, up to five times a day
While research has not always consistently shown that people who eat more frequently weigh less-the registry participants in this study eat more frequently. Eating 5 times a day breaks out to 3 meals & 2 snacks. Eating more often may be a good strategy to help with hunger; a ravenous state often results in poor food choices. Aim for well-balanced meals that contain plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein & healthy fats. Snacks can include things like nuts, fresh fruits & veggies, string cheese & Greek yogurt.
They stick to a consistent diet
Weight loss participants eat a fairly consistent diet, whether it’s a weekday, weekend, holiday, or vacation. Results show that those who ate a consistent diet the entire week were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight within five pounds. This was over the course of one year compared with those who ate a healthy diet strictly on weekdays, while indulging on the weekends.
They don’t skip breakfast
More than half the study participants eat breakfast daily. Aim for a breakfast with a balance of protein, fat & carbohydrates— like two eggs scrambled with vegetables and maybe 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, and one cup of fruit — can set the tone for the rest of day. All this can build up to better food choices throughout the day & minimize the risk of making poor food choices resulting from ravenous hunger.
Read full article here
The National Weight Control Registry, (the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance) has shown that only ~ 20 % of overweight individuals maintain their loss after one year. Given this less than stellar long-term success rate, I was intrigued by this article explaining the concept of reverse dieting. Reverse dieting, not a term I was familiar with until fairly recently, is a term typically used in body building circles. Reverse diet describes “a period after a calorically restricted eating protocol (i.e. diet) during which you slowly work to increase calories back to a maintenance level.” In layman terms it is essentially “easing” back into normal eating, after following a strict eating plan & vigorous exercise (i.e. dieting), by adopting sustainable eating habits. The goal of reverse dieting (when used correctly) is to promote long-term weight maintenance (i.e. keep off the lost weight) & to stop the unhealthy cycle of yo-yo dieting. One benefit of this plan is that it gives dieters structure, something they desperately need once they have reached their goal weight. Often people return to their pre-diet habits, resulting in weight gain that exceeds the pounds lost. Working with a nutrition professional, such as a registered dietitian, can assist you in coming up with a plan that works for you.
I have been a devoted Fitbit wearer for many years now and am always interested in what research has to say about the effects of the devices on not only our weight but other health related behaviors. Despite my dedicated commitment to achieving my 10,000 steps a day, I am under no illusion that achieving my step goals will result in automatic weight loss. In truth, my weight has remained relatively unchanged throughout my years of Fitbit use. Some may find this frustrating, but my purpose in using this device is to remind myself to move throughout the day rather than the goal of weight loss. The health benefits of movement throughout our day has been well documented and this is motivation enough for me. Regarding weight loss, research has shown that fitness tracker wearers are no more likely to lose weight than non-wearers. Part of the reason for this may be due to the fact that users rely on the devices’ daily calorie burn number to determine how much food they eat. Additionally, a recent study showed that 7 popular fitness trackers reported inaccurate caloric burn estimates (the number which many rely on to estimate calories in vs. calorie out). So, what is a fitness device devotee like myself to do?
Food First, Exercise Second:
research has consistently shown that diet is more important than exercise for weight loss.
Avoid Food Rewards:
food should never be a reward for steps walked or calories burned. Use non-food rewards to celebrate success.
It’s All Relative:
almost all monitoring devices (scales, diet trackers, exercise equipment monitors, wearable fitness trackers, etc.)-have margins of error. Consider the data relative and only use this data as one tool to help you achieve your fitness goals, be it weight loss or just overall health. Data is most useful when it is viewed and compared over time, rather than relying on one variable alone.
Waist vs. wrist:
for the die-hard data fans, waist wearable devices are more likely to be accurate than their wrist device counterparts.
Remember the goal of a fitness tracker should be achieving good health, not weight loss. While a fitness tracker can be a useful tool in your weight loss journey (if that is your goal) never rely on this instrument as a single tool for achieving success.
With all the confusing messages about healthy eating & nutrition science I decided this important topic warranted two separate blogs. Last month’s blog focused on nutrition priorities and this month I will discuss some of the popular nutrition headlines.
Gluten Free-the cure all?
No one can deny the current popularity of gluten free diets. Books & celebrities are advocating for a gluten free diet for “clean living” and weight loss. What the promoters fail to point out is that cutting out gluten containing foods like cookies, cakes & deep fried battered foods is a positive nutritional change that results in fewer calories consumed (hence weight loss). This effect is not directly related to gluten consumption. Additionally, three large studies have shown that people with the highest gluten intake were actually 20 % less likely to develop diabetes. Furthermore, these studies debunk the claim that eating gluten causes weight gain as evident by the finding that there was no relationship between gluten intake and weight. There is no benefit to avoiding gluten if you do not have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.
Health Halo Package Claims-Help or Hinder?
While food label reading is a component of healthy eating, it may unfortunately bring out the unwanted side effect of health halos. A halo effect on a certain food or brand causes the person to perceive the product as healthy, thus resulting in overconsumption of said product. Health claims on a food package does not mean that food provides nutritional benefits, as these claims can be misleading. Always check the Nutrition Facts panel & pay attention to portion sizes. Healthy, unprocessed food does not contain (nor need) a health claim.
Does Healthy Eating Cost More?
The claim “healthy eating is too expensive” is often cited as a reason for consuming cheap, processed convenience food. Current research contradicts this belief by showing that people who prepare home cooked meals engage in healthier eating habits & actually spend less money on food. Frequent eating out is associated with poorer health habits. Processed, convenience “health” foods actually cost more money than preparing a home cooked meal. If you struggle with ideas for healthy meal preparation, research quick and easy ways to prepare meals at home. The Internet contains an overabundance of healthy recipes & tips-just know where to look. Explore websites such as Ellie Krieger’s Real Good Food, Cooking Light & Eating Well (to name just a few).
The research on nutrition & health will be ever evolving, this much we know. However, we can be confident that the basic principles of healthy eating won’t change, consuming real, whole foods with a variety of plant rich foods including fruits, vegetables & whole grains.