One key to maintaining a healthy weight is to balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Balancing your calories sounds deceptively simple. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Take in fewer calories than you burn and you’ll shed some pounds. Keep your “calories in” and “calories out” about the same, and your weight should stay pretty stable. So why is it that hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t complain to me that they’re “exercising like a madman, but not losing any weight” or, “eating like a bird but the scale won’t budge”? It simply boils down to this: when it comes to counting calories accurately – the ones you eat and the one you spend – there are so many ways it can go wrong.
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Everywhere you go, it seems, there’s pressure to eat. Here’s how to push back.
For most of us, the last thing we need is the pressure to eat more. But it happens all the time. A few years back, one of the fast food chains in the US began a push to add a whole extra meal to your day – “the meal between dinner and breakfast”. I do understand the desire for an occasional midnight snack – sometimes you eat dinner early, you stay up late and you get hungry. But once that midnight snack morphs into “the fourth meal”, it starts to sound more like an everyday need – which just makes it easier to justify why we cave into the pressure to eat it.
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January is all about resolutions and “turning over a new leaf”. So all this month, we’re talking about the big nutritional benefits you can get from making just a few small changes. Now let’s take a look at ways you can start to eat less without leaving your tummy grumbling.
We started with little adjustments you can make when you’re buying food, and in the last post I suggested some ways in which you could make changes in the way you prepare your foods to shave calories and make them healthier. You might already be reaping some benefits if you’ve been trying to make these changes – and you may even be thinking that there isn’t a whole lot more tweaking you can do. Maybe you haven’t given it much thought, but a little fine-tuning in the way your foods are served can also affect your food intake, too.
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Make your daily staples as healthy as you can. Small changes in the foods you buy and eat every day can add up to big rewards.
The holidays are over, and we’re all getting back to our routines – which means it’s time to get serious about those New Year’s resolutions you’ve made. If “eating better” is something you plan to do this year, now is the time to think about how you’re going to go about it – before you slip back into your old eating habits. Rather than adopting a complete dietary overhaul (a complete “out with the old, in with the new” approach rarely works), your best bet is to begin by working on several small steps you can take to improve your everyday eating habits. And your first steps should take you directly to the grocery store, since that’s where healthy eating really begins.
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Eating before bed isn’t always a no-no. There are times when a nighttime snack makes sense.
Let’s say you’re my client. It’s the first time we meet, and we’re talking about your eating habits. As you’re telling me what you usually eat and when, you mention that there’s something you do that you probably shouldn’t… you always eat a snack right before you go to bed. You expect me to tell you that it’s a habit you should break, but before I weigh in on the subject, I’ll want to know more. What do you eat? How much? Are you eating because you’re hungry? Or is it just a habit? And, if you don’t eat before you go to sleep, what happens? Once I’ve got a better picture of your nighttime noshing, I’m in a better position to say if it’s right or wrong.
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A “meal deal” is no bargain if you’re just buying extra fat, sugar and calories.
There’s an old joke that goes something like this: two women are having lunch in a restaurant they haven’t been to before. As they’re finishing up their meal, one says to the other, “You know, the food here is really terrible!” To which her companion snaps back, “I’ll say! And such small portions, too!” It’s so true, isn’t it? No matter what we’re buying, we’re always looking for a good value – even if it’s food that isn’t very good…or very good for you.
Getting more for your money is generally a good thing, and we’ve been conditioned to look for the best value in everything we buy – from laptops to laundry soap. But if getting more for your money means getting more fat, more sugar and more calories, that can spell trouble for your waistline.
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Want to change your diet behavior? Break through these diet barriers first! Getting out of your usual comfortable routine is hard and the first step is figuring out why you’re resisting change in the first place.
When my son turned 5 years old, we had an “inside-out, upside down, backwards” birthday party for him. We handed his friends their goodie bags and waved goodbye as soon as they arrived at the house, and we ate cake and ice cream before the pizza. The parents had a lot of laughs, but the kids were totally bewildered – in no small part, I’m sure, because we were also wearing our underwear over our clothes. So why am I telling you this? Because sometimes when I’m talking to clients about the lifestyle changes they need to work on, I see that same bewilderment – as if I’m suddenly turning their world inside-out, upside down and backwards. Why is change so hard for some people?
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What happens if one person needs to diet and the other one doesn’t? This week, I’ll look at how couples can support each other throughout a lifestyle change.
Do you remember the old nursery rhyme about Jack Sprat who ate no fat, while his wife “could eat no lean”? As the tale goes, things with Jack and his wife worked out pretty nicely – he ate his foods, she ate hers – and between them, they “licked the platter clean”. But what happens in real life? How do couples work it out when one person needs to lose weight and the other one doesn’t?
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The best diet is the one that works best with your lifestyle, your budget, your food preferences and how much effort you’re willing to give.
One of the more entertaining aspects of my work is that whenever I meet a new weight loss client, I never know where the conversation will lead. Usually, I’ll start by getting some history – I want to know what’s the most and the least they’ve ever weighed, what motivates them to eat better and get into shape, and also what’s worked for them in the past and what hasn’t – that sort of thing. From there, I can start to get a sense for how much effort each particular patient is willing to put forth, and what their expectations are. And then we come up with a plan. But I can’t just tell someone what they need to do – I need to help them figure out how they’re going to do it, too. And we work together to figure out what’s going to work best for them.
When’s your energy peak? Do you wake up raring to go, only to find your energy level flagging by the middle of the afternoon? Is it slow going for you in the morning, but you’re fired up after lunch? Or do you come alive after 5pm?
We all have our natural rhythms, so it may be asking a lot to expect to have boundless energy all day long – but if you feel like you would prefer to have more energy throughout the day, then read on. What you eat, and when, can have a big influence on your physical and mental energy.
Popular tools and techniques for dieting come and go – and they need to be used properly.
Whether it’s low-tech paper-and-pencil diet diary or a more sophisticated app for your phone, the right tool can really help you meet your goals. Some of these tools – like online tracking devices that allow you to record your daily food intake and activity – work like a virtual health coach. Others are designed to help you improve your eating behaviors – such as learning to eat more slowly, or control portion sizes. But just as in fashion – where “one day you’re in and the next day you’re out” – eating trends come and go, too.
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You’ve Lost the Weight – Now What?
I begged him not to leave me. Right now, he needed me more than ever. But I’d been through this before, and I knew he’d be back. And I would be waiting for him….
His name was Frank. He’d been my patient for nearly a year, and with plenty of guidance on my part, and a lot of hard work on his part, he was 60 pounds lighter. But the day he hit his goal weight, he decided we were through. In his mind, his weight lost task was accomplished – like something he could check off his ‘to do’ list – which meant he could push all thoughts of dieting aside and move on. As we said our farewells, I left him with only this: “there’s a reason they call it weight management, Frank.” Read more »
We’re not always aware of everything we eat, and those extra calories can really add up.
I’ll never forget a client I had years ago. He brought in a ‘perfect’ food diary. He followed his meal plan to the letter, and every calorie (or so he thought) was accounted for. But his weight just wasn’t moving the way he’d hoped. As we talked, I noticed that he kept popping breath mints in his mouth. When he started unwrapping his second roll of mints, I just had to ask –exactly how many mints was he eating every day? “These little things? – I don’t know… maybe 5 or 6 rolls.” Who knew that “those little things” added up to more than 300 extra calories a day? Read more »
Last week, I had a conversation that I’ve probably had hundreds of times in my career. A new client came in for weight loss counseling and, as I was taking his diet history, I asked my usual first question – “when do you first start eating, and what do you typically eat and drink in a day?” Like most people, he assumed that I was asking about a weekday, so he had little trouble providing a quick rundown of his usual meals and snacks on a typical Monday through Friday. But when I asked, “do you eat differently on the weekends?” he responded with a groan.
“I try to be good during the week, but by Friday night, I just want to let go. I spend most of my weekend on the couch, and I hate getting on the scale on Monday morning.”
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Every time I have a new client scheduled to see me for weight loss, I have a pretty good idea of how our first conversation will go. The first thing they usually want to know is how much I think they should weigh. The answer is usually less than straightforward (see my post of October 7) and that question is inevitably followed up by a similar, and equally vexing query: “how long will it take?”. I’ve had this same conversation countless times over the years, and my answer is always the same – “it depends”.
Not a satisfying response, I realize, but the rate at which a person will lose weight depends on a lot of things. It’s like a road trip. You can look at the map, determine how many miles you have to travel, figure your average speed and then estimate how long it will take you to get there. That works sometimes. But maybe you come across a traffic jam, or a detour. Maybe you drive through a town you’ve never been to and decide to stop a while.
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