How to Keep the Weight Off

Christmas Break 2008 10

This time of the year, many people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and a popular one is to lose weight. Just ask anyone who is a regular gym-goer and they can tell you that the first few weeks of January are always the busiest; fitness facilities are loaded with what I call “resolutionaries.”

Of course, a better way to look at this is to go beyond the mere number on the scale. While weight as a number is a data point, our fitness level depends on other factors as well: endurance, strength, power, cardiovascular health, etc. A better resolution might be to “become more fit” or “pursue a healthier lifestyle.” What both of those mean is up to individual interpretation, so it is important to come up with goals that are beyond merely a number on a scale such as “I want to be able to run a mile without stopping” or “I will do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times per week” or “I will begin training regularly with a Personal Trainer.”

Numerous studies have pointed out that we should take a more holistic approach rather than simply focusing on the readout on the scale. In fact, when we focus more on overall health we actually have greater success at weight loss and especially keeping the weight off.

Research shows that those who put an end to their sedentary lifestyle and become more active will do a better job of losing weight and keeping it off compared to those who simply diet. Studies show that dieting can take the pounds off but unless we engage in a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and other healthy habits (not smoking, getting enough rest, etc.) , there is a higher chance that the pounds will return.

There is no easy fix to getting healthier. Diet alone or exercise alone won’t cut it for the long term. It is all about a lifestyle that promotes healthy habits. A lifestyle isn’t just something that lasts for a month or six months or a year until we achieve our goal weight; a lifestyle is about what we do from this point forward.

As the New Year approaches consider not only the changes you want to see right now, but also how to make them last for a long and healthy lifetime!

How to Eat Healthy at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner @ Boston Oak Room

Reality Check: For most of us, this won’t be happening. Those trying to watch their weight or just not overdo it will find that Thanksgiving Dinner is a huge challenge.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

–Stick to healthier appetizers like raw vegetables. If we fill up on those, we are less likely to eat the richer stuff that are part of the entree.

–Drink lots of water; water makes us feel more full and can prevent us from eating too much. Plus, it’s always good to hydrate.

–Fill your plate once…and then don’t refill it. Pile it as much as you want the first time, but then stop. A good way to do this is to remove your plate from the table.

–Eat until you feel about 3/4 full. Our sense of being full is slower than our mouths; if we stop eating at 3/4 (or earlier) we can avoid the overstuffed feeling.

–Choose one or two desserts and then ask for a small serving. Don’t deprive yourself of pumpkin pie or other treats; rather, enjoy with a small portion.

–Don’t fall for the idea of going to the gym and working out like crazy so that you can eat more at dinner. Unless we are running a marathon on Thursday morning (and some of us might be) we’ll never burn enough calories to make up for what we’re about to eat. More likely, we will be hungry from our workout and eat even more. Avoid this trap!

Finally, if all else fails:

If you get on the scale on Friday and the news isn’t good, be kind to yourself and realize that Thanksiving day is one-of-a kind. Don’t get down on yourself for “being weak.” Accept that we all have days when we eat healthier than others. Commit to getting back on the program.

It probably won’t take too long to undo the damage…before Hanukkah and Christmas come in four weeks! Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Vegetarians…We Are Not Alone

Impossible Burger at Hell's Kitchen, Minneapolis

It used to be a pretty lonely business going out to eat in a restaurant as a pescatarian/vegetarian. Other folks see 100 items on the menu, but we see 5 or 6…or at least we used to.

There is a boom in the plant-based food industry and it is not because there are suddenly more vegetarians or vegans. The NPD group, a market research firm based in New York State, is reporting that of all those purchasing and eating plant-based burgers 89% are not vegetarian or vegan! 89%!!!

This is according to an article which recently appeared on http://www.nbcnews.com. Here is the link: https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/almost-90-percent-people-eating-non-meat-burgers-are-not-n1082146

My wife and I went out to dinner with friends this evening and one of them ordered an Impossible Burger (so did I!). He is a meat eater, but we convinced him to give it a try. He liked it. As the article states, it seems that plant-based foods have crossed a threshold; taste has finally caught up to what consumers are looking for. Those looking for variety in their diet want to try new things, but will only stick with it if the taste holds up. Products like the Impossible Burger or nearly everything made by Gardein (www.gardein.com) hold their own against animal-based products.

Of course, just because something is plant-based doesn’t mean that it is necessarily healthier to eat. When you order a burger at a restaurant, it may have some salt, pepper, and other spices mixed in but it is otherwise usually not highly processed. Compare this with an Impossible Burger’s ingredients and you’ll see that it is quite processed indeed.

Even so, as the taste meets a higher standard and profitability grows for plant-based food companies, we can expect to see more variety and more healthy options available for everyone–not just vegetarians. Given the impact of the meat industry on the environment, this could be a win for the planet as well.

This is an interesting and exciting trend and it is nice to know that as vegetarians we are not alone.

Vegetarian at the Bell

Taco Bell

Many of you may recall a couple of months ago that my wife and I tried the Impossible Whopper at Burger King. Overall reviews on that: really good but not necessarily any more healthy than the “regular” stuff. We’d do it again.

I had seen ads for the new vegetarian menu at Taco Bell, so my wife and I have been talking for a while about checking it out.

Before my review, let me share that I am a pescatarian–a vegetarian who eats fish (but not shellfish). When I travel, I usually find vegetarian stuff to eat; this is true even at local restaurants. It is a lot better than it used to be as most people are trying to eat more healthy.

I give you this background to explain the difference between the Taco Bell experience and the Burger King one. At Burger King, it felt like they were trying to replicate the sensation of eating a meat Whopper; a meat substitute was central to that proposition. At Taco Bell, it seems more like their vegetarian menu is just meals without meat. This is not a negative, but just a different expectation; there was no fake ground beef or fake chicken–just meals that contained no meat. I have a feeling I could have accomplished this without an ad campaign to lure me in.

My take on the Taco Bell vegetarian experience? OK. I think the last time I ate there I was in high school (Carter was in the White House), so not a whole lot to compare it to. My wife and I both got one meal; they were OK but not nearly as filling as the Impossible Whopper. I guess I’m supposed to get more than one thing from the menu?

Like the Impossible Whopper, it is nice to know that there are vegetarian options at Taco Bell. Like Burger King, do not think that because it is vegetarian it is any more healthy; although the sour cream is low-fat, this is by no means “health food.” Would I try it again? Perhaps…but not necessarily rushing back.

When it Comes to Weight Loss, One Size Does Not Fit All

Bathroom Scale

An article that appeared today in the health section of http://www.nbcnews.com highlighted the story of a woman and her husband who embarked on a weight loss journey together. A big part of the article talks about what sparked the change and how the two of them set out to make healthy changes in their lives. Their choices and approach are instructive and are highlighted in the article in a sensible way.

Samantha Cassety, a dietitian and weight-loss expert in NYC whose articles I have referenced in the past, drew some conclusions from this story.

  • Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived has less of a chance of success in the long run. Recognize what you need and make sure you get at least some of it.
  • Having a supportive partner–or someone who is going through the process with you–can bolster chances of sticking to the plan. Joining forces with someone else to get healthy is a powerful thing.
  • In contrast to the top bullet point, identify not only what doesn’t work for you, but what does work for you. The process is highly personal and what is beneficial for one person won’t necessarily be effective for someone else. One size does not fit all.
  • Watch your weight in a way that makes sense. Monitoring is important–whether it is daily, weekly or at some other interval. This is especially helpful in triggering you back to the right path after vacations, holidays, etc., where eating habits may have changed. One size does not fit all, so find what is best for you.
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers; be aware of what comes with healthy habits: increased energy, greater mobility, ability to participate in activities, clothing fitting better, etc.

The main point is really that the process must be specialized to each person. Recognize negative triggers. Understand what you need. Understand your weaknesses and strengths. Find others who will support you or join you in your journey.

The healthy choices we make today, affect the health we have tomorrow.

To read the full article, go to: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-woman-lost-80-pounds-visual-cue-sparked-her-weight-ncna1059276

What Happens When You Only Read the Headline

Police arrest Batman

An interesting article appeared on http://www.cnn.com a few days ago with the following headline: “Vegetarians might have higher risk of stroke than meat eaters, study says.” NOOOOOOOO!

I have been a pescatarian for nearly 15 years and this news was shocking to me…or, at least, the headline was. Read the article, and one gets a very different story.

Although there is a higher risk of stroke (which some believe was a conclusion reached incorrectly by the researchers due to their misuse of “weighting” in the study), vegetarians are at a much lower risk of heart disease. In fact, the lower risk to heart health far outweighs the risk of stroke.

What was the “weighting?” The study took into account in classifying study subjects that vegetarians are, in general, more healthy than meat-eaters. Well, duh. The study comes from BMJ, a very well-respected journal out of London, UK. The article from CNN, though, suggests that more research is needed. So, nothing like publishing a misleading headline about an inconclusive and possible flawed study. I guess that is what they mean by click-bait.

By the way, pescatarians are not at the same risk of stroke and reap most of the benefits with regard to heart health. So you may still want to put those ribs down and reach for some halibut or salmon.

A warning: don’t just get your news from reading headlines–be they about health or any other topic–spend the few minutes needed to read the article–especially before you post it online or share it with friends.

Here is the link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/04/health/vegetarian-vegan-diet-stroke-heart-disease-risk-intl/index.html

You May Want to Put Down that French Fry

AFB067

I’m not sure if this is child abuse, but it certainly sounds like child neglect. Here is the first line of the article: “A British teenager who had been a ‘fussy eater’ since elementary school lost his vision and suffered significant hearing loss due to his yearslong diet of junk food, according to a case report published Monday.”

It goes on to describe how this “picky eater” began to suffer symptoms as a result of his diet at around age 14. By the time he was 17, he had hearing loss and was considered legally blind. Wow! I feel sorry for this kid–no really, I do.

First, I feel badly that he has to endure these health issues. Second, I feel badly that neither his parents/guardians/teachers/doctors had the cajones to do something about it. Children should not be making healthcare-related decisions–and I believe this is one; that is up to parents until a child turns 18.

The article explains that the child’s issue had to do with the texture of certain foods. This sounds like an autism spectrum issue, but that should not be an excuse for poor nutrition. To rely on fish & chips, processed ham slices and sausage, Pringles and white bread is simply not acceptable…and part of the blame has to go to those who cared for him. I have a son on the autism spectrum and while he certainly had his preferences about food–as did each of my kids–I made sure that he had well-balanced meals that he enjoyed.

As for the rest of us, this is a warning. It does matter what we eat. Our bodies need to be properly fueled. They will not function if certain nutrients are absent. While it is true that we can take supplements to make up the difference (I take Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and Multivitamin every day), there is no substitute for a healthy, mostly non-processed, balanced diet.

Are french fries evil? Will they blind our next generation? No and no. While not the healthiest choice, the occasional serving of french fries is OK…and depending on where you get them, they may even be good for your mental health! Just don’t overdo it.

Here is the link to the full article: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/blinded-junk-food-teen-loses-eyesight-years-long-bad-diet-n1049181