Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Did I Gain Eight Pounds This Year??

I have been thin my entire life (I'm 32 years old now) and just this past year I have gained eight pounds and it's making me look fat. The only thing I have done differently is switch from artificial sweetener in my tea to using honey. I use 4 teaspoons of honey a day.... could this be what's making me gain weight?
Anne M.

Dear Anne,
Actually it may be exactly what's making you gain the weight! I have never heard such an accurate account of what a person changed in their eating habits over a year, but this makes complete sense: Each teaspoon of honey has about 20 calories; four teaspoons each day is about 80 calories. Over a month this would lead you to gain 3/4 of a pound; after 12 months that would be exactly eight pounds!

If you would like to keep using the honey to sweeten your tea, there is nothing wrong with that at all. You can easily burn 160 calories per day by walking about one-and-a-half miles (which takes about 1/2 hour for most people). This will allow you to lose the weight over time, and then you can back off to just one mile a day to maintain your weight while using the honey.

Many people cite advantages to using honey; there aren't really any health benefits to using artificial sweeteners except for saving calories. In my opinion you would be better off getting into the habit of walking 30 minutes a day to burn the calories. Walking is good for your joints, heart, circulation, and often peace of mind giving you time to just relax and take some time off from being busy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

I have been on the cookie diet (non medical)c on and off since January. I stuck with it religiously for the first 20 weeks. Since then I have "cheated" and added other foods back into my diet and cut down on the cookies. I am happy with my weight loss but lately I have noticed that I have been losing clumps of hair? Why is this? I have been taking a vitamin supplement daily. --Lucy

Dear Lucy,

I'm not sure exactly what form of the cookie diet you have been on. There is one written by a physician (Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet) that consists of eating certain 'prescription" cookies several times a day whenever you get hungry and they provide some nutrition; then you add a dinner meal to it consisting of lean protein and vegetables. Critics point out that the total of 800 calories you receive on this diet is an extremely unhealthy level for any length of time.

After more than five months of eating cookies ("healthy" ones or not) and virtually nothing else, you may very well have a protein deficiency. Of course, protein deficiency is not the only reason for hair loss. You should see your physician as soon as possible as this is an indication that something is not right with your body's normal functioning. I am glad to hear you've been taking a vitamin supplement during this time and hope it also contained essential minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium (among others). If not, a mineral deficiency could explain the hair loss. You will need to get back to a balanced diet and your physician may prescribe certain supplements to restore the balance of nutrients in your body for good health.

Let this be a lesson to all who are tempted to follow the latest fad diet; eliminating food groups or nutrient groups is hazardous to your health and not worth whatever weight you lose!
Learn new and healthy habits on a balanced diet--lose the weight slowly and never have to go on another diet again!

Friday, May 22, 2009

How Come I'm Not Losing Weight On 1500 Calories?

I am a 34 year old woman who is trying to maintain my weight with maybe a bit of fat loss. I am 155 pounds but don't have a lot of fat. Maybe 15%. I have a lot of muscle mass in my arms and legs. I do 60 minutes of cardio (running then biking) 5 days per week, followed by weights and abs on alternating days. I burn about 700 to 800 calories per work out. I practice karate on the sixth day. I eat about 1500 calories per day and I am wondering if that is enough because for the amount of activity I do it seems that any weight loss is minimal.

--Julia M.

Hi Julia,
Great to see you keeping up such an active lifestyle! You don't mention your height, but anyone weighing 155 pounds, with lots of muscle, and daily 700 calorie workouts, surely burns much more than 1500 calories per day.

The most likely explanation is that you are eating more than you think you are! I would try measuring my food servings just a few times so you have a better idea of what "3 ounces of chicken" looks like or "1 cup of pasta". You may find out you are overestimating some serving sizes by 50%, which is common.

Another common way people underestimate their intake is by letting some snack foods slip under the radar. You may well remember having a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but what about the coffee drink you had when you met your friend late morning, or the ice cream cone you picked up when you took your son and his friends out after school? At the end of the day, we tend to forget the foods that we would like to forget we ate! The fix for this is a food diary; try keeping one for a week or two, writing down everything you eat within 20 minutes of eating it. The diary doesn't have to be anything fancier than a scrap of notebook paper tucked in your pocket or purse--it's just a way to track exactly what you are eating.

You may find a couple of hundred extra calories hiding out between meals and on serving portions that will be the answer you've been looking for.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Many Calories Should My Seven-Year-Old Daughter Eat?

How many calories in a day should a 7 year old girl get? We are not putting our child on a diet, don't worry. Just trying to eat healthy as a family. My daughter tends to overeat so we just want to make sure we stay around the recommended calorie range for her age. Obesity runs in my husband's family.
Thanks, Michelle

Hi Michelle,
I'm glad you aren't putting your 7 year old on a diet ;)

Here is a guideline for children--it's not specific to calories as much as it is to healthy eating.

It would be very difficult to count all the calories your daughter eats every day in every food and there's really no reason to... if she looks like she has too much body fat, simply cut down on the "junk" foods like cookies, ice cream, soda, and other treats that do not add nutrition to her diet, and replace these with fruits, yogurt, and graham crackers, for example, to give more nutrition with fewer calories.

The website also has games and posters for children so she can get interested in participating in her own healthy eating plan.
It's great that you are being proactive in providing a healthy diet for your child before she is overweight and before she is old enough to have established poor eating habits.

In my opinion, you are giving her the best gift a parent can give!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I want to make my own trail mix: what ingredients do you recommend?
Charles S.

Dear Charles,
This depends on what your goal is with the trail mix; are you looking for a good source of energy and calories, or something to snack on that's really healthy?
Nuts have a lot of calories, but they also have "good" fats and protein, and keep you full for a long time.
Dried fruits are a good source of carbohydrates for short-term energy, but again are high in calories.
If you want to be able to eat a lot (to fill you up) without a lot of calories, I would include some type of carbs like mini-pretzels or chex cereal which are less calorie-dense.
If you really need a lot of calories (like for all-day hikes where you won't be eating a meal and really need the energy) throw in some M&M's, coconut flakes, and banana chips. These are the yummiest part, but you really have to be moving to work them off!
Happy trails :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

"What Can I Substitute for Eggs?"

If I am following a diet that tells me to have an egg once in a while on the breakfast menu, what I can substitute for them? I do not like eggs in any form.
Tania G.

Dear Tania,

Instead of an egg, you'll want to have another small portion of a high-protein food that provides under a hundred calories to tide you over for most of the morning. Examples of these include:

- Six ounces of low fat yogurt (should be less than 100 calories)
- An ounce of low-fat cheese
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese (great on toast instead of cream cheese)
- An ounce of turkey or ham
- A tablespoon of peanut butter can be used occasionally for a substitute but does contain more fat than an egg.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How Much Carbohydrate and Protein Best for Exercise?

Hi Laurie,
I am a 52yr, 5'7", 115 lb, 15%body fat, female. My training schedule includes running 5 - 6 days a week, strength training 3-4 days a week and I also do olympic lifting once a week. I do take 1 - 2 days off each week, which means most days I am doubling up on lifting and running. I follow a very strict diet, 25-30% Protein, 45 - 50% Carbs, and 20-25%Fat. I eat only lean meat, vege/fruit, nuts, very little grain (1/day) and no dairy (I supplement calcium). I am finding that I am not recovering very quickly and frequently have heavy legs while running. I am assuming that I am not eating enough carbs, but I have read that 45% should be enough. I burn anywhere from 1800 cal on a sedentary day to 2800 cal on a long run day. What are your thoughts. Should I increase my carbs? -- Thanks, Sheila R.

Dear Sheila,

Kudos to you for such a strong exercise program...and I hesitate to say this, but... at your age! You set a fine example for everyone who complains how they can't do it anymore because they're over 40 :)

The calorie levels you figure you are burning daily sound reasonable. It does make sense at first to see how you are dividing your calories, but let's take a closer look:

For someone as active as you are 45% is a pretty low end for carbs and I would go as high as 60-65% for a week or so and see how you feel. Fat intake tends to slow people down when they exercise so you might experiment and see how having a lower fat meal prior to activity affects that heavy and tired feeling. I think you'll see a difference.
Having your carbs at 60% and your fat at 20% would still give you 40 grams of fat in your daily diet, even on a low (1800) calorie day, and that is certainly enough to meet your nutritional needs for essential fatty acids.

Your current dietary protein level has you taking in 175-210 grams of protein on a workout day and that is an extremely high amount--more than 4 grams per kilogram--and even body builders rarely suggest more than 3 grams per kilogram. Unless you are competing for Miss Universe and trying to add a pound or two of muscle each week, this is quite an excessive amount. I would recommend a maximum of 130 grams per day (It must be difficult to get in the amount you've been eating without protein powder supplements, especially since you don't eat dairy, isn't it?)
It's important to know that when you don't use all the protein you eat for muscle building, the extra protein is converted to another form to be used as energy, wasting the nitrogen. The kidneys must then excrete all the wasted nitrogen and that puts a stress on them.

You did not mention whether you are happy with your current weight, but especially considering your low body fat percentage, you are quite lean for your height. I'm sure gaining weight would make running a bit more difficult but consider how you would feel, energywise, to put on five or six pounds. It may just make you feel better in general.

I don't profess to be a sports nutrition expert, but I do know that carbs are what's going to give you the energy you need to work out and feel good. Extra fat will not help you in your work out and is limiting your food choices and probably the volume of food you can eat. And large amounts of protein, which cannot all be used for building body tissue, are wasted and stress the kidneys over time.

My advice: Enjoy some carbs! Whole grain breads, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals will give you the energy your body needs, a volume of food to keep you satisfied, and much-needed fiber, not to mention B vitamins to use all that energy efficiently.
Let me know how you feel as you try tweaking your diet to get in more energy, and fewer components that may be hindering your performance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"I can't lose weight no matter what!"

I'm wondering why I can't lose weight no matter what I do. I've changed the way I eat and I exercise regularly, however, I haven't lost a pound. I am female, 5'3 and weigh 146. I work out on the elliptical machine or on the treadmill walking/running 5 to 6 times a week at least 35 minutes at a time. I've been eating super healthy: oatmeal, salads with no dressing, little to no bread - I get my carbs in fruits. I eat small portions of chicken, fruits and vegetables, lowfat snacks, lowfat cottage cheese, lowfat yogurt, etc. I've been counting my calories at and have followed their weight loss advice...Staying within my caloric intake of 1178 a day to lose a pound and a half a week. I've now been doing this for 3-1/2 weeks, to no avail. I haven't lost any weight and my pants fit the same as they always have. I'm just really frustrated...I follow all of the rules and no matter what I do, I can't lose weight. Can you offer some advice? Thanks, Kim

Dear Kim,

It sounds like you certainly are doing a lot of things to get the weight down and I know how frustrating it is when we don't see results after all this hard work! My first advice is to give it some time. You are very frustrated having made all these major changes for just 3 weeks (which may seem like 3 months!), but remember that you are ideally learning to eat healthier and exercise more as a lifestyle change and not just to lose 15 pounds and then go back to what you were doing before.

A calorie intake lower than 1200 calories really won't allow you to get in all the nutrients you need, and I would recommend upping that to 1300 or 1400 calories and aiming for 1 pound per week weight loss. Be sure to get the recommended 6 servings (at least) of whole grains (see to give your body the energy you need. If you've suddenly cut back significantly on calories, your body will adapt by decreasing your metabolism in an effort to save energy! The result is--no weight loss. If this has been your exercise routine for some time now, your body may have adapted to it, as well, and you may want to consider adding 10 or 15 more minutes to those work-outs to boost the calories burned.

Try giving it another month (which should be easier once you give yourself a few hundred more calories) and plot your weight on a graph or chart at least once a week, looking for a trend. It's very hard to believe that you have not gone down a single pound in over 3 weeks while on a super-low calorie diet, plus exercising almost every day. Sometimes people lose one pound and say, "that's nothing".... have you really not lost one single pound?

If you are recording everything you eat, and every activity you are doing at Livestrong, that is a good way to see objectively how you are doing. Have there been any days you've snacked and not written it down? Skipped a few days of tracking or exercise? Sometimes we feel that we are working so hard that we start to give ourselves a 'break' here and there and that can put back the calories we've worked so hard to shave off.

If you really have been strictly following the regimen, try my suggestions to increase the calories by a few hundred, track your weight at least weekly for another few weeks, and then check with your physician to find out if there could be a medical reason having an effect on your weight. I do believe if you keep up the good work, the results will start showing, even as you read this!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Supplements Help With Weight Loss?

I hear that there are supplements marketed by Health Food manufacturers, which allegedly increase metabolism ( L-Carnitine) or even enhance the natural production of calorie-burning, muscle-building testosterone without the risks and side-effects of hormone replacement therapy( Tribulus Terrestris and Eurycoma Longifolia , the latter grown in Malaysia /Indonesia and long known as Tongkat Ali /Pasak Bumi) are but two of the many plants believed to boost testosterone by endogenous action). If it could allow me to better manage my weight, give me more energy and restore normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, without the undesirable side-effects of direct hormone replacement therapy, I'd go for it. I'd like to know if you have any comments or suggestions regarding these herbal products. Perhaps as a dietician, you have more flexibility and openness than a doctor. Most doctors, and mine is no exception, don't know much about medicinal plants, unless the effects of their active ingredients are endorsed by clinical studies on humans and appropriated by the pharmaceutical industry as specific drugs. Until then, too many doctors simply don't bother to keep abreast with the findings of phytopharmacology and they turn their lack of knowledge into mistrust. So I hit a brick-wall when I asked her about these herbal products. She told me that it is better to play it safe and stay away from them , not, of course, because she personally knew of any negative ( or positive) effects, but simply because not much is known about them and their interactions with other drugs. I tend to think this is only half of the truth.Again, I'd appreciate your comments on these issues. Thank you, Franco

Dear Franco,

Unfortunately there are not a lot of reputable studies in Western countries on herbal weight loss methods. The herbal supplements that are sold are not regulated by the FDA because they have managed to go under the radar claiming to be neither a food nor a drug. This means that even if there were some great studies on one of the herbs used in another country, we have no idea how many milligrams are present in what's sold over the counter here or how pure the product is, or even if it contains what it claims to.

There are not any supplements, to date, proven to stimulate metabolism; keep in mind that if there were, they would have been discovered, in the news, and widely used by numerous celebrities . . . and no one would be overweight anymore!

That said, there are some things you can do to promote weight loss, even though you say you are already following a healthy diet and are very active: We usually tend to underestimate what we eat (portion sizes as well as little treats that manage to sneak by our conscious minds) and overestimate how active we are. Keeping a food diary and recording everything you eat has been shown over a number of years to help people lose weight. It makes us more aware of what we are eating and you may discover you are eating more than you thought you were.

As for exercise, you might consider wearing a pedometer and/or keeping an exercise log to carefully track how active you actually are. If it's within your means you might also consider a personal trainer... there is evidence that metabolism doesn't decrease with age as much as it does with a reduction in muscle mass. If exercise can increase your muscle mass this does naturally increase your daily metabolism.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Metabolism is Too Slow For Weight Loss

I have been diagnosed with hypertension and need to lose weight. I am a 50 year old male. I dont have a thyroid problem, but I must have a slow metabolism as I have had a hard time losing weight since about my forties. I am quite active and don't eat that much, no junk at all. Last month I cut out all red meat and that seemed to trigger something as I have lost two pounds. That still doesnt seem like much. Is that below average for guys like me? I didn't change the calories totals just cut out red meat (I always ate lean red meat). Why would that make a difference? Thanks! Barry

Dear Barry,
Congratulations on your weight loss so far, and on your commitment to changing your diet to improve your health!

I haven't found people who actually have a slow metabolism, as much as people who eat more than they realize they are eating! We all tend to underestimate portion sizes and forget about snacks we munch on between meals.

Some of the weight you've lost recently may be due, in part, to just being more aware of the desire to lose weight... maybe you go to grab something and subconsciously think, "No, I am trying to lose weight--I'm not going to have that now because I'm not really hungry". I'm not sure why cutting meat out would have helped--are you having smaller portions of chicken/fish than you would beef? Do you have different side dishes with red meat that you are no longer having?

If I could make a single suggestion for weight loss that is the most effective, it would be to keep a food diary. Many studies over decades have shown that people who log their intake consistently lose more weight than those who don't, even if all of the subjects are on the same diet and exercise regimen!

Also consider keeping an exercise log... are you physically active in your job? Or do you also find a way to burn calories for 30 or 40 minutes during the day doing something you enjoy (whether it's biking, basketball, or working out at the gym). If you believe you are active, take a few days to wear a pedometer and see how many steps you take during a typical day--we often tend to overestimate how active we are, just as we underestimate how much we eat!

Finally, when it comes to weight loss, aim for slow and steady. You didn't mention how much you weigh, but healthy guidelines suggest we aim for 10% of our body weight in six months--that's just 25 pounds by October if you weigh 250 now. This may be a very different idea if you are like most people who want to lose 25 pounds in a month or two! But it's most important to change habits that will keep the weight off, so you're not stuck with the weight back on in eight months and looking for another way to diet.

Here's to your slow and steady success!