Thursday, October 30, 2008

How Often Should I Weigh Myself?

Like many behaviors that can aid in weight loss, this answer will vary from person to person. Some people really hate to get on the scale. And the answer for them would be "you never have to". But most people find it encouraging to see the numbers go down and this keeps them plugging away at keeping up their healthy eating and exercise.

It does get frustrating if the numbers don't go down quickly enough--and if you're looking to lose 9 pounds this week, you will be very frustrated! The typical recommendation is to weigh weekly and expect to see a one or two pound loss. I find it helpful to keep a graph and track weekly weight loss, because the pound or two lost each week is much more meaningful at the end of the month. When your graph shows 5-10 pounds lost, frustration easily turns to encouragement!

Some people--and this is true of many who have lost weight and kept it off--weigh themselves daily. Yes, that's right, every day. If you do this, it is very important to know that daily weight fluctuations are not the same as fat loss or gain. A person's weight can change by 2-4 pounds each day based on water retention, as an effect of sodium intake, after eating a large meal, etc. Then why weigh every day? It helps you learn that weight is a just a number; that eating a large meal can't really mean you gained six pounds of body fat; and that if the number keeps going up it's tme to change something right away. Frequent monitoring helps people see when they need to adjust their diet so they can maintain their rate of loss, or maintain the weight they are comfortable being.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's the Best Diet To Follow?

This solution is going to be different for everyone, but basically the answer is "the one you can stick with". Studies show that people successfully lose weight as long as they are on any regimen that is helping them eat fewer calories than they burn. If you start a program and you're not ready to devote the time and energy to stick with it; if it's too difficult to continuously be calculating; or if it leaves you starving all day, you're not likely to remain on it for more than a few days.

Think about giving something new a shot: learning to eat a healthy and balanced diet every day! This means you don't have to give up anything forever. You can still have snacks, desserts, even chocolate :) You just have to set your mind to eating all things in moderation and putting some attention to planning ahead. This means simple strategies such as having only one dessert a day; eating smaller portions at meals; making an effort to include plenty of fruits and vegetables and adequate servings of dairy products to meet your nutrient needs; and planning meals ahead of time so you don't end up ordering pizza night after night because you have nothing in the house to cook!

Some helpful tools to use are the food guide pyramid website and the Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight six week program.

Please post your comments here: we'd love to hear what you tried and what worked for you!

Butter or Margarine--Which is Better Now?

What a confusing topic our spreads have become.
Margarine was first invented with the intention of developing a product healthier than butter. In the late 1960's when studies found people who had high cholesterol were having more heart attacks, the food science community went about trying to lower the cholesterol intake of consumers. Since butter contains cholesterol, the search was on for a substitute.
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fat in all animals. It's made in the liver and does serve some good purposes (it's a precursor to vitamin D). But too much can clog our arteries and lead to heart and artery disease.
So the bright idea was to take corn oil, which is cholesterol free (as are all plant oils) and make a yellow stick of spread out of it to mimic the butter we love.

A decade or so later, scientists found that cholesterol in the diet is not, in fact, the primary cause of elevated cholesterol levels in the blood. It's saturated fats (those solid at room temperature) that are responsible for raising the levels of so-called bad cholesterol.
Now let's take a look at that unsaturated corn oil margarine. Ooops! They had to saturate it (a process filling certain openings in the structure with hydrogen atoms) to make it solid so it would look and feel more like butter. Now that it's solid, it's not so good for you anymore! The idea of margarine being "healthy" because it contained no cholesterol changed in the eyes of the nutrition science community to "unhealthy" because it's a saturated fat. Now we know the trans fats (those that are changed from unsaturated to saturated) are so unhealthy they are becoming banned in some places. Other oils have been replaced in commercial products over the years such as coconut oil and palm oil, both of which are naturally more saturated because of their chemical composition.

Fortunately, there are many other options available. While I wouldn't choose a stick of margarine over a stick of butter, margarine comes in many forms that are more healthy because they are less solid. A tub of margarine is more healthy than a stick because it's less saturated (you can tell because it's softer). The squeeze margarines are still more healthy (more liquid, less solid). The spray margarines are best of all if you're watching your blood lipids. The simple rule is, the more liquid (the less solid) the better these are for your cholesterol levels.
Many of the less-solid forms are also lower in fat and Calories too--and we're always watching our calories!

Are Meal Replacements a Good Idea?

Meal replacement diets such as slimfast, medifast, and Jenny Craig have been around for decades. Do they work? The answer is, "Yes! As long as you stay on the diet". For years dietitians fought the idea of having their clients use these pre-packaged powders and potions, insisting that people need to learn how to prepare a balanced meal and train themselves to eat proper portion sizes. But now conventional wisdom says the most important outcome for people with health issues is to lose weight.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or other conditions affected by obesity, losing just 10% of your current body weight can make a huge difference. So, by all meals consult your dietitian and other health care professionals to get the best advice for you. But the bottom line is, use whatever works--as long as it provides the nutrients you need in the right balance for you--to help get your weight down.