Logging Meals

Epic Meal Time - Lego Edition!

It’s science. The way that we lose weight is by burning more calories through activity than we consume through eating.

A pound of fat is 3500 calories. In order to lose that pound, a person would have to either eat that many fewer calories or increase activity by that many calories or a combination of both. It seems fairly straightforward but many people still struggle with losing those pounds.

In many cases the problem has to do with misperceptions about how much exercise we are doing and how much we are eating. There are many apps that help with this. These fitness apps will calculate how many calories are burned in a 20-minute moderate stationary bicycle ride or 10 laps in the pool; they will also know how many calories are in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (adjustable for the kind of bread, the type of jelly, and the amount of peanut butter) or a stalk of celery. This takes the guesswork out of it all…but it is time-consuming and tedious.

Those who are serious about getting to a healthier weight would be wise to put in that extra effort. Many times we think a snack is just a few calories when it could be well over 200. Other times we think a walk must burn 300 calories when maybe it only burned 100. The more committed a person is to tracking the meals and logging them, the greater the chances of successes. A number of factors impact this. 1. The figures are more accurate using this method; the guesswork is taken out if an app is used. 2. We become more educated about what we are eating and just how healthy or indulgent it might be. 3. We become more educated about how effective our workout/activities are in burning calories. 4. The idea of having to log every meal and snack can also serve as a kind of regulator; in other words, we might think to ourselves: “I could eat that cookie, but then I’d have to log it on the app. Too much trouble. I’ll just wait for dinner….”

Not everyone has this experience, but I have found that the most effective way for me to regulate my weight is to log every meal, every snack, and every workout. Of course, from the beginning one has to know the right number of calories allotted each day or logging makes little sense. Talk to a health or diet professional to know those numbers and plan accordingly.

Is Weight Loss your New Year’s Resolution?

Day 2/365 - New Years Resolution

2021 is just over two weeks away. Have you considered your New Year’s Resolutions? Is weight loss on the list (again)?

As a regular gym-goer (pre-COVID-19), I used to find it annoying when all the “Resolutionaries” would show up after New Years. The gym would be packed for the first week or two of the new year; by the end of January it would be back to normal. Year after year it was the same thing. Humorous on one level, sad on another.

How is it that so many of us make these resolutions each year and yet we have so little success? Mostly, I think it is because we do not spend enough time considering how we will be successful. We set a goal but do not really strategize about how to get there. This is the key to reaching any objective.

I remember when I ran my first Half Marathon. I set the goal and signed up; having put that money up was part of my incentive. I then consulted with friends and did some research to find the best app to help me train. I settled on Hal Higden’s app and followed the plan. It was not easy, but the feeling of satisfaction of crossing the Finish Line after 13.1 miles was worth it. And it would not have been possible had I not put the planning time in–not to mention the hard work on my part.

There is no one-size-fits-all for New Year’s Resolutions, just like there is no one-size-fits-all way to lose weight. Several things to consider as you set your goals:

  1. What goals have you set in the past and found success? What contributed to reaching your objective? Can it be replicated?
  2. When you have failed in the past, what were the reasons? What are the obstacles you faced then and what obstacles do you face now? How will you overcome them this time?
  3. Who can help you to reach your goal? It is often more fun and effective to be on the journey with someone else. Often it is that companionship and added accountability that leads to success.
  4. Be realistic. Do not set a goal that is unattainable or unhealthy. For example, losing 25 pounds in a year; losing 25 pounds in a month would not be. On a related note, the more specific the goal is the easier it is to plan for it.
  5. Know thyself. Accomplishing what you want first depends on you understanding (or admitting) who you are and how you work best. Here is an interesting article published yesterday: https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/28/health/weight-loss-resolution-wisdom-project/index.html. The author touches on this topic and explains how he found success.
  6. When it comes to fitness, it is helpful (and healthier) to think in more general terms. A number on the scale is only one measure. What would it be like to have a resolution that says: “I will go to the gym three times each week for 30 minutes,” rather than focusing on a number? Building a healthier lifestyle will lead to the other good things.

This has been a rough year for all of us. COVID-19 has disrupted many of our health/fitness routines. Hopefully, 2021 will be a better year. Let’s do our part by doing the hard work and planning so that it is not just wishful thinking but a serious path to success.

300 Minutes of Exercise EACH Week?

exercise

Many of you have seen the article in The New York Times, “To Lose Weight with Exercise, Aim for 300 Minutes a Week,” by Gretchen Reynolds. It appeared on December 9, and it caught my eye. Here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/well/move/to-lose-weight-with-exercise-aim-for-300-minutes-a-week.html.

For a long time, the fitness industry has professed that adults (of any age) should be engaged in exercise (cardio or resistance) for 150 minutes per week. There have been many times when I have started working with new clients who have been sedentary; I get a blank stare at mentioning two-and-a-half hours each week. “Wouldn’t our weekly 30 minutes be enough?” I have to start them slowly and encourage them to add workouts even when they are not with me until they get to the recommended level.

So what’s with the new 300 number? Reynolds reports that 300 minutes per week has now been shown to assist in weight loss, which is not necessarily the goal for everyone–thus the distinction between 150 and 300. When clients talk to me about weight loss strategies, I emphasize diet. Exercise helps (except when it does not), but lowering calorie intake is the best way to ensure weight loss. The problem with exercise is that when we work out, our body in turn often demands more calories; our appetites increase and the added eating erases any of the gains from working out.

The study cited in the article points out that people who exercise will consume more “compensatory calories;” usually this amounts to 1000 calories per week. So if a person burns 1500 calories at the gym in a week, we can expect that person to eat an extra 1000, leading to a deficit of only 500 calories. One pound of fat in the human body is about 3500 calories; at this rate, a person would lose one pound every 7 weeks. The new research shows that those who exercise 300 minutes per week will average closer to 3000 calories burned from that activity; subtract the 1000 in compensatory calories and it is still a deficit of 2000 calories. In this scenario, a pound would be lost every two weeks or so–certainly a healthy pace. Additionally, those working out at the higher rate had an increase in the hormone leptin which controls appetite.

This research is certainly helpful, but I am not sure whether it will have huge implications. Folks who are sedentary, obese, or have other health problems will have a hard time scaling up to 150 minutes per week, let alone 300. Controlling one’s calorie intake (together with exercise) still seems a reasonable approach. The best course of action, as always, is to build a healthy lifestyle including: healthier eating, exercise, rest, low alcohol consumption, and no smoking. This is recommended not just for 300 hours/week…but every hour of every day.

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!

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

Losing Weight: It’s All About the Math

Numbers

Those of you who follow my blog know that for the last few months I have been “struggling” to take off the weight that I put on during my mostly sedentary recovery from foot surgery.

Newsflash: going on a week-long Alaska cruise does NOT help the cause. Luckily, I only put on two pounds during the vacation, but it could have been worse.

When I returned home, I had the latest issue of ACE Fitness Magazine weighting for me. Much of the issue was devoted to discussions about nutrition and weight loss. There were articles about the latest trends in dieting (Keto, for example), the debate about whether eggs are good for us or not, as well as the latest research on the role of carbs.

The issues are usually not clear cut. Keto, for instance, is an effective method for dieting IF you can actually stay on the diet. The food choices are so limited that it is estimated that 50% of folks who try it do not last long enough to see results. It is also not recommended for older adults since the lack of protein in the Keto diet can contribute to loss of muscle mass–a serious issue as we age.

As was the case in many articles in ACE Fitness Magazine, the conclusion is that “more research is needed.”

So what do we know? A simple truth: weight loss is achieved when we burn more calories than we put into our bodies. It is a simple question of mathematics. If we eat 3000 calories worth of food but only burn off 2500 each day, we will put on weight (approximately one pound/week). On the flip-side if we burn 3000 calories per day and only eat 2500, we will lose about a pound a week. Simple math.

How does this effect me in my weight loss journey? I have started using the My Fitness Pal app again; I stopped on the vacation. This app (there are others out there) allows me to calculate how many calories I am ingesting, how many I am burning through exercise and activities of daily living, and suggests a proper calorie intake per day to achieve my goals. I have to be super-diligent to make sure I enter in the info in order to actually have this work. The app works on one simple principle as well: math. The numbers don’t and won’t lie.

We should all feel free to try different diet plans, but there are certain underlying truths:

  1. Eat less processed foods.
  2. Increase consumption of vegetables and fruits.
  3. Eat fats and carbs in moderation; try to switch out saturated fats for unsaturated fats.
  4. Burn more calories than you consume through eating.

I will keep you posted on my journey. The fact that yesterday was a Jewish fast day (17th of Tammuz) did help the cause, but I know there is a lot more work ahead to get me back to where I was pre-surgery.

Good thing I always did well in math class!

Is “Eating Clean” a Dirty Word(s)?

sshhh. dont say it! the x-word is the un-word of the day. and tomorrow!

As some of you may recall from my June 17 post “What I Hadn’t Counted on After Surgery,” I am working on taking off the weight that I put on after my foot surgery. I had even turned to a subscription weight-loss app to help me; the jury is still out on that.

I have been counting calories using the app and generally feel like I am depriving myself of a lot of stuff I really like…(mmmm, pastry). Not seeing the results I would like yet, but I am being patient. I am also trying to follow the advice that I give to others about what they eat: a lot less processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.

In my mind, I am trying to remind myself to “eat clean.” I first heard this term from a personal trainer and wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Turns out, there is no one definition of what eating clean means. To me, it means trying to eat the right stuff–cutting out junk foods, fatty foods and overly-processed foods.

Turns out that the term “eat clean” has some pretty serious connotations for a lot of people. There are those who argue that this kind of terminology makes moral judgments. I think this is a bit far-fetched. A donut is a donut; it does not have moral implications. It has no moral force for me, but for others it does. Can eating a brownie make a person feel somehow “less than?” I guess so.

A recent article by Samantha Cassety (who else?) was published on http://www.nbcnews.com today, exploring this issue: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/better-way-think-about-clean-eating-ncna1020996 . She gives what I consider to be sane advice about approaching “clean eating.” Cassety recognizes the complexity of the concept for many, but says it need not lead to negative results. Each of us can create our own definition of what eating clean means–one that is helpful to us rather than intimidating or shaming.

Beyond the journey that I am on now to lose the weight that accumulated after my surgery, I know that I want to continue to eat in healthy ways after I hit my goal. It is not about being “clean” as a opposed to being “dirty,” but rather about remembering that I am what I eat. While I may not see this directly as a moral issue, I do see it as a way to help me live a longer and healthier life.