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 http://www.myplate.gov/  ).

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!)