Monday, January 23, 2012

How Can I Lose Weight Making Small Changes?

I'm a 42-year old woman and I'm at my wits end with my weight! I've tried so many diets I can't count, but I'm still about 50 pounds overweight and very frustrated. I keep hearing diets don't work and you have to change your lifestyle, but how can I change what's keeping me overweight when I don't know where to start? I hope you can help...  Louise C.

Hi Louise,
Relax! Trying to make too many changes at once is frustrating, and it's also nearly impossible. The key is to make just one change a week, or a similar pace that works for you. People who are overweight know they eat too much, know what foods are fattening, and know they should be more active. Choose something you know is contributing to your weight loss, and find an easy way to change it for you.
Some ideas are:
1) Keep a food diary so you can be totally aware of what you're eating. After you've done this for a week or so, take a good look at what you're eating and when. Do you sometimes eat when you aren't hungry? Can you make an effort to stop eating food you don't really like, but just nibble on because they're in the office conference room? Can you make a "no eating zone" in an area where you stress eat, like your desk or your car? This helps eliminate some of the calories you're eating and not even enjoying.

2) Consider portion sizes: Are you cooking too much at dinner time? Eating 2 portions when you could be getting another meal out of the leftovers? Are you going out to eat and cleaning your plate out of habit? Can you make a change here and start eating smaller amounts at meals?

3) How can you be more active when it's not second nature to you? Can you go for an early morning walk, or perhaps one after dinner? Join a sport you've always wanted to play, or take those flights of stairs each day. Exercising does not have to mean going to the gym for 2 hours a day.

Once you're comfortable with one new habit, continue working on it while you add just one more small change.

Now how do these small changes add up to make a difference? Well, for every 100 calories you can shave off your intake (or burn off by moving more) each day, you'll lose nearly a pound at the end of a month. I know a pound a month isn't much, but it's likely you'll be able to cut your intake by closer to 300 or 400 calories, and work off another 100 or 200 by walking a mile or two. Now you're up to five or six pounds a month.
Still not convinced it's worth it? Multiply this by 12 months and figure out what you could weigh a year from now, just by making small changes--no crash diets or starving!

If you need guidance, support, and accountability, consider hiring a diet coach (hop over to to read all about it), or joining one of the many free weight-loss support sites like or is another site that has an app to go along with it so you can use your iphone to keep your daily food and exercise log.

How Do I Calculate the Percentage of Carbohydrates in my Diet?

I've been trying to do a nutritional breakdown of my diet to establish the percentage Protein, Carbohydrate (complex and sugar),and Fat (especially Saturated Fat) I consume. I've been keeping a detailed food diary and nutritional details of each food I eat including the weight.
By my calculations, which I checked and rechecked, on an average day I consumed approximately 2600 kcals and 1700 grams of food and calorie-containing drinks.
What is the most accurate way of extrapolating my weekly % consumption of each food group please?
My previous calculations have fallen short in that when totalled the percentages didn't add up to 100%.

Thanks for your help--Mike S.

Dear Mike,
I can certainly help you with this!
The percentage you are trying to calculate is the fraction of calories contributed by each of the macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
The reason your numbers aren't coming up right is you are using the weight of the food instead of the calories. So here's how to calculate the percentage you are looking for:

Let's take an example and say you ate 2100 calories yesterday, including 320 grams of carbohydrates and 80 grams of protein. First, you multiply the grams of carbohydrate by 4, since there are 4 calories in a gram of carbs. This gives you 1280 calories from carbs. Now divide 1280/2100 and multiply by 100 to get percentage: 61 percent is the answer, and a good contribution of carbs to your diet.

Now let's move on to protein. First, multiply 80 x 4 because there are also 4 calories in a gram of protein. Then take 320/2100 x 100 to get the percentage of calories from protein: 15% of your calories are from protein.

We can assume the remainder is fat (unless the 4th source of calories--alcoholic beverages--contributed to your intake). Fat has 9 calories per gram (which is why it is fattening!) and alcohol has 7 calories per gram (and the calculations of that are more complex, as you have to figure the alcohol content by the 'proof' of the liquor).

I encourage people to practice this using the food labels you see on the box panel of cereals, milk, and other packages.  Multiply the number of calories in each energy-yielding nutrient by the number of grams contained in the serving of food. Then add up the total and see if you get something real close to the calories-per-serving on the label. It's a good way to check your work.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Want to Try the Reboot Diet

I just watched the documentary with the Aussie who goes across the country on a fruit and vegetable juice fast with amazing results. I am an active 50-year old woman that hasn't really had a weight problem, but as I've aged--metabolism, menopause, etc--I've gained about 20 lbs and my clothes just don't fit like they use to. So I'm thinking of trying this Reboot diet plan. I think I could do it for 4 or 5 days at a time, but after that I'd be craving something to chew. Would it work to do it for several days on and off? And would I be missing important nutrients if I did it this way? It looks very healthy with all the leafy greens and all the fruits.

What do you advise before I break out the juicer?  Linda G.

Dear Linda,
Juice diets, fasts and cleanses have been around a long time. Most people find it easier to drink a prescribed diet and just ignore food altogether, rather than thinking, preparing, weighing, measuring, and trying to decide what to eat, which includes talking yourself out of that candy bar! That's why many liquid diets are successful, including the liquid protein drink diets (Optifast, Medifast, Slimfast) . . . for a while.
Think about what will happen after the fasting is over; typically, people go back to the way they were eating and gain back the weight.

The allure of these diets is they are easy to follow and show big results fast! Many people can lose 5 pounds or more in the first week. On the eat-healthy-and-exercise plan the results might just be one or 2 pounds a week. But the benefit of eating healthy and exercising is, it can become a lifestyle--unlike the juiced diet. And if you can change some of your eating  habits and activity level to take in fewer calories and burn more, you'll keep the weight off forever!

You probably won't suffer any nutritional deficiencies if you try the juicer diet for 4 or 5 days. It is low in protein, essential fats, and in the B vitamins found in starchy carbs that help you metabolize energy. A multivitamin/mineral supplement while you're on it wouldn't be a bad idea. But my advice?
Start keeping a food diary. There are many websites that help you do this (LiveStrong, FitDay and SparkPeople are just a few). Becoming more aware of mindless eating, empty calories (think soda, chips, and cookies), and eating out of boredom can help you change these habits. You'll likely find the few hundred calories that can be eliminated on most days, bringing you that pound-or-two-a-week weight loss. Then you won't have to go on any type of diet.... you'll just become a healthier eater and lose weight in the process!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Have I Been Dieting With the Wrong Approach?

Hi,  I was wondering if it's important to count fat in the diet, or just calories when you're trying to lose weight.
And what about exercise--is that really important too?
I've been trying to lose weight for years, but haven't been successful--I end up getting so hungry that I pig out, and then after one day off, I never can get back on to the diet plan I've made.
I really want to do it right this time and I'm coming to the conclusion I've probably been doing something wrong... can you help?    Julie T.
Hi Julie,
Hopefully I can help!
There are many thoughts about what actually helps people lose weight--besides reducing calories. One school of thought is that people can lose more weight following a diet low in fat, because fat is such a concentrated source of calories that your body loves to hold on to. But others find lower carb works for them. It may depend on the individual and what they can stick with easiest.

Exercise is the way to burn extra calories, so it can really help weight loss:  In order to lose one pound a week, you'll have to eat 500 fewer calories a day, and that can be tough. If you exercise for a half-hour extra each day and burn 200 calories, you only need to eat 300 fewer calories to be in deficit of 500 per day and lose one pound that week.
There are many online sites that let you enter a food diary and they calculate your daily calorie intake for you (like SparkPeople, Fit Day, and Livestrong).

Maybe in the past you've been trying to do too much, too fast.
I encourage people to make small changes that will add up over time.

If you can walk 20 minutes a day to burn 100 calories; substitute a beverage with something lower-calorie (such as a diet soda for regular, or use milk in your coffee instead of cream) to eliminate 100 calories a day; and have a healthier snack (swap cookies for fruit or a high-fiber cereal bar); you'll be able to lose 3 pounds a month with these small changes that might be easy for you to keep up.

If it sounds too slow at first, remember that this time next year you'll be 36 pounds lighter--and that's enough for a lot of people to get where they want to be!