Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Blew My Diet: Now What Do I Do?

I have been eating healthy on a diet for four days--I was doing real well and then yesterday I ate a bag of chips. I started with just a handful, but kept going back for more and eventually ate the whole bag. I think it had 1000 calories in it. Did this ruin my progess? Do I have to start over again? --Darlene H.

Hi Darlene,
The good news is, you were eating healthy for four days!!

The overall goal should be to eat healthy MORE of the time, each day throughout your life. Not dieting for a few weeks here and there, before eating our way back into an unhealthy state!

Essentially we are always starting our diet over each day, and even at each meal.
Before anything you eat, the question you should ask yourself is, "Is this the best choice for me right now? Am I hungry? If I'm eating for some other reason (like boredom or stress) is there another activity I could engage in besides eating? Is there another food choice that would be better for me (either because it has fewer calories/less fat/less sugar or more of certain nutrients that are good for me)?  What would be a better choice for now--or is this what I've decided to enjoy in this moment, regardless of the nutritional value?"

In answer to your specific question, if you dieted over 4 days and, for example, ate 500 fewer calories (than you burned) on each of those days, you would have been in a negative 2000 calorie balance. After eating 1000 calories of cheetos your body would then be in a negative 1000 calorie balance (or down nearly 1/3 of a pound). So, yes, it slowed your progress. But those 4 days did not go to waste! You still ate healthy on those days, and if you always eat healthy 4 out of 5 days you will be in better shape than if you only ate healthy one or two days!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Help: I can't lose weight!

I am a 19-year old female college athlete and I can't lose weight. I am 5'1" and 145 pounds. I get plenty of exercise, and I try to eat less but it doesn't seem to work. What can I do?  Rebecca L.

Dear Rebecca,
I'm sorry to hear of your challenge, and I hope I can help.
In order to eat less and lose weight it's almost essential to keep a food log. When you say, "I try to eat less but it doesn't seem to work" I infer the attempt was not a serious and consistent one. In other words, we often try hard for one meal or skip one snack, but then indulge later in the day, making up for the calories we tried so hard to avoid.
When a person loses weight by eating less, it's something that must become a way of life in order to lose weight and keep it off!
So, start by eliminating all the "empty calories" in your diet--sodas, candy, cakes, and cookies. Focus on eating healthy, whole grains and fruits and vegetables at each meal. Consider having a fruit or vegetable as a snack, or peanut butter and crackers instead of a candy bar or chips. Choose broiled or baked food at meals instead of fried. And limit the dressing you pour over a salad.
This doesn't mean you can never have a sweet food again--but if you're trying to lose weight it would be a good idea to pick a "cheat day" and enjoy this type of food only once or twice a week.

Helpful websites to keep your food log include and They will count your calories for you!

Keep me posted on your progress!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why am I Gaining Weight?

I am a 30-year old woman, 5'2" tall, weighing 125 pounds. I have been happy with this weight, but recently I have been gaining. I walk about 12,000 steps at work every day in addition to walking on my treadmill for 45 minutes 5 days a week at a 3.8mph pace. I eat about 1900 calories a day. Can you tell me why I'm gaining weight?  Valerie L.

Hi Valerie!
I can't tell you exactly why you are gaining weight but I can tell you there are just about 3 possibilities:

One is that you are eating more than you realize. This can happen easily around the holidays when there are festive treats everywhere. We tend to "just take one" or mindlessly munch off a plate of cookies in the break room. Some indulge a bit too much at holiday dinners and never lose the pound they add on here and there. You might consider keeping a strict food diary to find out exactly how much you are really eating.

Second is that you may be exercising less. This can happen when our schedules get busier (again, not uncommon around the holidays). Perhaps a day is skipped here or there because of holiday events or shopping days, or even from being exhausted after all the parties and shopping! Start keeping notes of the days you are actually exercising, and think about the chance that you could be walking less at work for some reason. It could even be that you've changed something at home--stopped walking a dog, moved to a one-story house--or another change that did not seem significant.

Finally, there is a chance you have an underactive thyroid. As many as 10 percent of women have some compromise in their thyroid function. This can slow your metabolism and cause weight gain. The diagnosis can be made with a simple blood test (and usually some other testing to confirm) and the treatment can be a simple daily pill.

If you've determined there is no change in either the calories you take in, or the calories you burn over the past several weeks, take a trip to your family physician to find out if something physical is going on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Can I Tell What's Good to Eat??

I'm a young male who has a very sedentary job. Although I don't weigh a lot and I do get exercise, I know that my diet isn't very healthy. I've seen my fair share of documentaries, researched on the internet, and been given advice by friends and family. Almost all of it seems to contradict each other.

Saturated fats are bad, then they're good, and trans fats are bad. Don't use butter use margarine (can something so artificial really be better?). Only eat raw uncooked food. Cut out all the dairy and meat. Lower your carbs. Buy 99% fat free food, no don't, they just substitute it with sugar. And so it goes on.

My own gut feeling is that we have evolved to crave the foods that are good for us. We cooked our prey from the hunt over fires. There was no bread, fruit juice, soy milk, olive oil etc.

To put it simply, I'm looking for the truth. I want to do the right thing for my body, but I just don't know what that is. Has the scientific community actually come up with a consensus on what a healthy diet is? Is all this contradictory and misinformation just being fed to us by people with a vested interest and an agenda? ---Nat G.

Hi Nat,
You are right! There is a ton of information out there. The key is knowing who to listen to.
If you look at our health agencies, there IS a consensus. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, and USDA, etc all say "Eat more fiber, less fat, less sodium (read: less processed food), more whole grains, and less sugar". You won't find anywhere on these sites that says to cut out an entire food group, eat low carb, or eat all your food raw. And none of them are promoting some food group to sell (such as, say the American Dairy Council or the Pork Board).
Unfortunately we have not evolved to crave what is good for us: we still crave very calorie-dense foods like sugars and fats because without this biological drive there is the chance we could starve to death. And I think cave-men very well may have baked bread over the fire, juiced fruits from the trees, and pressed olives for their oil!
The motto of dietitians is "everything in moderation".... you can't win if you're jumping from one diet fad to the next, chasing the latest 'good for you' food group and eliminating entire food groups, such as all dairy foods. Our food guide pyramid still makes sense: choose a variety of foods from each group every day, limit your intake of fats and sugars, and get some physical activity to balance it all. (see  ).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Help! I'm stuck at this weight.

Hi, I'm hoping you can help me because I've tried everything and I just can't lose weight! I am a 32-year old mother of two, 5'2" tall and 130 pounds. I've tried low-calorie diets but stopped because I was told I was not eating enough; exercising 30 minutes a day and increased to 60 minutes because of no results; I switched to a more active job, and gave up drinking soda. I've tried all of this for months and have not lost a pound! What is going on? The really odd thing is that I can eat huge amounts of chocolate, soda, steak, etc and won't gain any weight. So really my weight is very "stuck". I can't gain it, I can't lose it.I would really appreciate any advice you can give me because I really have no idea what to do at this point. Even my family and friends are amazed I haven't lost a pound after witnessing all my hard work.
Jen S.

Dear Jen,

I know how frustrating this can be!
I wonder for how long, and how consistently, you've stuck with any of these low-calorie diets or hour daily work-outs? If you eat less and exercise consistently (especially for an hour, 5 days a week) for a whole month with no exceptions, you will probably see results. I would suggest you try this for 30 days, while keeping a food diary.
You see, people tend to remember their hard work, and brush off an occasional slip or treat. So we end up focusing on all the working out and all the smart lunches, but ignoring the cookies someone brought in to work, the dessert for the special occasion, the 3 days we didn't feel like working out last week, and the quart of ice cream we had to have due to cravings.
Since you know you can have huge amounts of chocolate, soda, and steak, I assume you have been doing this! You won't notice weight gain from eating 1000 calories more or less over a few days, but adding those calories in to your diet will certainly negate any results you've had!
Because of your small size you can't expect to lose more than about 1/2 pound a week, even with a reasonable (1200-1500) calorie restriction and daily exercise.
So here's my suggestion: Try again for 30 days in a row (note any exceptions in your food journal as they are bound to occur!) to eat a reasonably low calorie level, exercise an hour a day (as often as possible) and see if you don't get 2 pounds off. I know it's slow-going, but in the mean time you'll be developing great eating and exercise habits, and when you stick with those, the rest of the weight will come off too!

Keep in touch to let me know how it goes :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are Protein Bars What I Need to Build Muscle?

Hi. In the past I have eaten protein bars after a work out to build muscle. But I'm wondering how effective they are. It also seems like they have too much added fat and sugar. Is there another good source of protein, maybe even a can of beans, that would work just as well?
Kyle J.

Hi Kyle,
I agree with you about the protein bars having added fat and sugar. Some of their labels look strikingly similar to a candy bar! There is no 'magic' protein in these bars. It's the same protein whether you're enjoying a turkey sandwich or a bowl of beans and rice.
There are plenty of common and inexpensive sources of protein for you to get what you're looking for. In fact, most people only just need an extra 15 grams of protein a day in their diet to build muscle working out. You can find close to 10 grams of protein in a cup of milk (12 gm), an egg white (7 gm), an ounce of meat, fish, or poultry (about 7 gm), or 1/2 cup of most nuts or beans (watch out for the calorie density of the nuts, though!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Can I Avoid All the Candy at Halloween?

I've been successful at watching my weight for a long time now, but I'm worried about the upcoming holiday and all the treats that will be in my house. It's worked up till now just not to have these things in the house, but we have to buy some for the trick-or-treaters, and then my two kids will have their buckets full for weeks to come. How can I resist these?  Loretta R.

Hi Loretta,
It's always tough staying away from things we find tasty. Perhaps there are some types of candy that just don't tempt you? Personally I will always buy something for the trick-or-treaters that I would never eat. Maybe those Sponge Bob Crabby Patties turn you off? Or sour candies, or maybe for you it's something with peanuts that turns you off. Most of us have certain foods we really desire, and others we could take or leave. Buy the treats for kids that you could leave!
After Halloween is over? If your kids aren't used to having candy around, don't make an exception for the next month until they eat all their candy. Have them choose several they really like, and bring them to donate the rest to a food pantry or women's shelter. These kids (and adults) would surely appreciate a little treat thrown in with their regular bag of groceries, and candy is one thing food pantries don't buy for their standard stock.
You and your kids will be better off, not just for the lack of extra sugar, but also for the heartwarming donation!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is it okay to drink juice before bedtime?

Can we drink fruit juice before bed or is it better to have it in the morning? Is it good if refrigerated for 24 hours? And is it okay for me to drink it since my mum has diabetes?   --Lim

There is not a thing wrong with drinking fruit juice before bed. Your body has no idea what 'time' it is when it comes to eating, and your digestive system works 24 hours a day.
Fruit juices can stay fresh when covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Pasteurized and bottled juices last much longer, but it's always recommended to consume the juice within a week of opening a container, even when refrigerated.
Your mother may have to limit her consumption of fruit juices in order to control her carbohydrate and sugar intake. Excessive intake of juices (such as three or four 8-oz. glasses per day) can contribute too many calories and may affect glucose or triglyceride levels of people who have metabolic issues. Still others, with kidney disease, have to limit or avoid certain juices because of their potassium content.
If you are in good health, a 4-6 oz. glass of juice each day can contribute valuable vitamins, minerals, and energy, and should not be a cause for concern.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can I Eat All Vegetables Raw?

I have a few questions about eating vegetables: First, can we eat broccoli raw? And can we mix raw veggies with raw fruit and eat them together? Are there any that should not be mixed?  --Anonymous.

Yes! The body is capable of mixing virtually any foods in any combination without any problem. There are a few exceptions, of course, based on the individual. Some people would be squeamish about eating certain mixtures together--say pickles and chocolate--but that would not be because of the digestive tract but because of the brain. Also, raw vegetables can be more difficult to digest than cooked, and some individuals could find themselves a bit gassy afterwards. Usually in time the digestive system adjusts to this as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Can You Live on 700 Calories a Day?

Hi, I was just wondering how viable it would be to live on 500-700 calories a day?
Chrys T.

Hi Chrys,
There are many variables in determining a person's calorie needs: Among them are gender, height, weight, age, and activity level. The range is broad and typically goes from about 1700 to over 3000 calories for weight maintenance.

Basically, any person would need at least 1200 calories to meet their nutritional needs. If you went on a very low calorie diet (like 700 calories) you would lose weight fairly quickly, and that might be alright for a few weeks if that was your goal. But after a while you would begin to suffer deficiencies: First, the water soluble vitamins like riboflavin and vitamin C, and much later other vitamins like A and D.

You might ask, "Why couldn't I just take a vitamin pill?". Well, you could, but you would also have to make sure it was full of minerals, and electrolytes (like iron, calcium and sodium) to meet your needs. Then you would still be missing a source of essential fatty acids, protein, and fiber. You could take these all in a pill or powder, too, but we still don't know what other elements are in our food, yet to be discovered, that would be missed.

In the long term, your body would try to compensate for you 'starving' it, and slow down your usual metabolism. Your weight loss would eventually slow down, and when you tried eating a normal amount again you would quickly gain weight. This is what happens to "yo-yo" dieters who go on a low calorie diet, lose weight successfully, go back to eating normally and gain the weight, finally disturbing their normal metabolism and staying overweight their entire life.

If you were referring to the study that had people with diabetes go on a 600 calorie diet to reverse their diabetic condition, they only stayed on this for a few weeks (Diabetologia. published online June 24, 2011). The key to reversing diabetes (type 2) is usually weight loss, and that could be accomplished over time on a much more reasonable caloric intake.