Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Drink More, Lose More

The importance of drinking water, especially for weight loss comes as no surprise.  You would think that it would be easier to drink water in the summer but I find that my clients struggle in the summer even more so than in the winter because the water gets warm quicker.  Leaving water and snacks in the car becomes very handy when you are trying to follow positive behaviors for healthy eating but summer temperatures make that a challenge.

Nonetheless, the temperature outside does not change the importance of staying hydrated. How much water is a common question.  Eight, eight ounce glasses is the typical recommendation.  However,  it is important to take into account the amount based on the difference in height and weight.

Here's what you need:

Take your weight in pounds---> divide by 2---> = number of ounces of water /8 = # cups per day


150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces / 8 = 9.3 cups per day

The more you weigh, the more water your body will need.  If you eat a lot of fruits and veggies, your body will receive some of your water intake from those foods, however, I would still shoot for the 9 cups per day.  Think of water from food as a bonus.

If you are aiming to loose a few pounds, the proper amount of water (per above) plays an important role but more significantly WHEN you drink the water plays an even more important role.

A study out of Virginia Tech separated 48 woman, ages 55-75 into two groups.  All of the women were put on a calorie controlled diet.  One group was required to drink two cups of water before each meal, the other wasn't.  They found 12 weeks later that the group who drank the water lost 15.5 pounds while the non water drinking group lost 11 pounds.  A 4 1/2 pound difference may not seem that significant but if this occurred over one year, the water drinking group could potentially lose 18 more pounds!

Water fills you up allowing less room to overeat.  Also, if you are replacing drinks that contain artificial sweetener with water, you may be decreasing your sweet cravings therefore eating less sweets overall.  In addition to managing your weight, water helps:

  • regulate body temperature
  • decrease fatigue
  • flush out toxins
  • prevent/alleviate constipation
  • protect your heart
  • maintains the health and youthfulness of your skin

Stores such as Target and Walmart sell water bottles that maintain water temperature longer than traditional water bottles.  Always look for water bottles that are BPA free.  Placing filled water bottles in the freezer the night before is a good idea if you plan to be in the heat the next day.  Lastly, if you shy away from drinking water because you find the constant trips to the restroom to be a nuisance, let those trips be a healthy reminder of the benefits drinking water has on your body.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Changing the Focus to You

Not having or making the time to eat healthy is a common cause for poor eating habits and weight struggles.  It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for so many of my clients to do for others, yet neglect themselves. 

For my clients who are mothers, fathers or caretakers, we discuss or revisit their days of never, ever leaving the house without a stocked diaper bag for fear their infant or toddler may need a snack or drink.  I've had some share with me the diligence it has taken to manage their child's diet because of a severe food allergy or type 1 diabetes. But when it comes to their children, my clients will pick, plan, prepare and pack exactly what their child needs to stay healthy. 

Why is it so hard to do it for ourselves?

I make the similar analogy with the individual who can easily abstain from a food or beverage when observing a religious holiday or tradition yet when needing to do it for their health, it becomes such a struggle.

Why is it so easy to turn this switch on and off?

Why is it then when the doctor tells you that your BMI of 30 or greater coupled with a family history of diabetes, heart disease or even high blood pressure, you are still not motivated and/or committed to making long term lifestyle changes?

What these behaviors illustrate is that you do posses the discipline needed to plan, pack, prepare and make changes in some instances but doing the same for yourself is a challenging process. If this describes you consider how you feel when you are in control. It's clearly not an impossible task if you so effortlessly accomplish it for others or for something that is meaningful to you.  Don't give up, rather gather the motivation and strength and apply it to yourself. 

It's time to focus on you.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Doing It Right Can Be Wrong

I just finished an article for a local paper and thought it would be a perfect contribution to my blog. Trying to lose weight can bring on a lot of frustration when you feel you are doing it all right but not seeing results.  My article points out some common misperceptions.  If you suffer at the scale, I hope this article sheds some light.

    For the umpteenth time you’ve decided to lose weight. Despite the ups and downs on the scale, you know what you need to do to be successful.  Guess what? You don’t.  In fact, what you think will help you lose weight may in fact be impeding your success. Beware of these must-do’s for weight loss.  Get ’em wrong and those precious pounds won’t budge.

1.      Exercising (too much). There is no doubt that exercise goes hand in hand with calorie control but when it comes to weight loss too much exercise can sabotage your success.  

The less you weigh, the less calories you need to maintain that weight (e.g., a 250 pound person will need more calories to maintain their weight than a 150 pound person).  As you lose weight, your maintenance calories decrease making maintaining that lower weight more difficult, therefore you will need to increase your exercise. If you are doing an hour of intense exercise per day, it will be challenging to increase and keep up long term.  The best solution, as modify your food choices slowly boost up your exercise routine. 

2.      Eating after dinner. Most people would agree that eating after dinner is a no-no however there are exceptions.  When our blood sugar drops, cravings kick in. Our body is looking for carbohydrates to raise our blood sugar so when you eat an early dinner and go to bed late, the eating every three hours rule stays in effect.  For example, if you eat dinner at six and turn in at midnight, you will need a snack between eight and nine.  A light snack such as an apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter will help your blood sugar stay stable until you put your body to sleep.


3.      Using diet food to lose weight.  Diet ice creams, cookies and puddings are not real food.  They are fake foods that have been put on this earth to prevent you from losing weight while making you think that eating them will help you meet your weight loss goals.  Diet foods are full of carbohydrates and not void of calories.  The sugar or artificial sweeteners in these products make our bodies crave more.   If you are buying these foods with the expectation that they will help you lose weight, stop.  Instead, treat yourself to the real thing on occasion.


4.      Keeping a food record. There is no doubt that tracking your intake will help you be more accountable and meet your goals.  However, writing down what you eat BEFORE you eat can be even more beneficial than writing as you eat or afterwards.  Being proactive rather than reactive is all part of the planning process which is key for weight loss. This approach conquers two tasks, creating a plan for the day and keeping a record of your food intake. Don’t forget to leave space to record the foods not planned for!  


If your weight loss efforts are not yielding results, think outside of the box.  Consider that your “must do’s” for weight loss may just be the one thing you need to reevaluate.

Erin Spitzberg MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and Creator of Ace Your Diet App available FREE on App Store. She counsels clients on nutrition in her private practice, Nutrition By Design LLC in Oradell, NJ.




Monday, June 10, 2013

Weighing Yourself to Sleep

My girlfriend suggested that I write on the subject of sleep for my blog.  After being diagnosed with a serious medical condition a few years ago she developed insomnia and her sleep patterns haven't been the same since. The prescription medications she has resorted to are helpful to a point but the days of going to bed and waking up 7- 9 hours later and feeling refreshed are a memory.

Chronic sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep are very common and even more so as we get older.  It's easy to become complacent and chalk it up to a sign of ageing but the truth is if you suffer from a chronic weight problem, lack of sleep can make matters significantly worse. If you have never had a weight problem this can cause you to develop one .

There are two hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin, that are responsible for the packed on pounds.  Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates appetite and Leptin is produced in the fat cells and is responsible for signaling the brain that you are full.  When you don't get enough sleep Ghrelin levels increase and Leptin levels decrease.  Therefore you have an increased appetite with a decreased sense of fullness.

A study conducted with Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin found that of the 1000 volunteers they studied, those that reported having slept less than eight hours a night had lower levels of Leptin and higher levels of Ghrelin. They also had higher levels of body fat. To make matters worse, those that slept the fewest hours per night weighed the most.
This is just one study but there are many more that corroborate these findings.  Therefore, it is not just diet and exercise that is crucial for weight management, sleep holds the same level of importance.  The next question of course, what can you do to get more sleep?
The following are common recommendations you will find to help you fall and stay asleep.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
  • Establish a routine, going to bed the same time and waking up the same time.
  • Don't take a nap for more than 25 minutes but avoid naps if falling asleep is your problem
  • Don't eat, watch TV or discuss emotional issues in bed. The bed is for sleeping.
  • Do not exercise vigorously before bed.
  • Keep the pet on the floor or in a crate rather than on your bed.
  • Avoid fluids 4 hours before going to sleep to avoid getting up at night to use the bathroom.
  • If you do get up to go to the bathroom use a dim light.
  • Keep the room at a cool temperature.
  • Sleep in a quiet environment.
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine. They are stimulants and can cause you to arouse throughout the night
  • Avoid alcohol. It is a sedative but as it is cleared from your system you will wake up.
  • Follow up with your physician to determine if you have a medical condition such as Sleep Apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome that can be effecting your ability to sleep.
  • Discuss medications with your physician in conjunction with behavior modification.
What I have witnessed among friends, family and clients who report problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night is similar to what I witness with the those trying to change their diet.  People want results but not committed to make the behavior modifications needed to meet their goals.  The recommendations above may not cure sleep deprivation but they can help.  At the very least, it is worth committing to for a few weeks to determine what works for you.  I have found many people don't take those steps. 

I think back to my previous blog about the person who wants to lose weight but does not want to incorporate vegetables into their diet.  I think I made it clear that they go hand in hand.  In the case of sleep there is clear evidence that lack of sleep causes physiological disturbances that will effect  weight so sleeping a minimum of 7 hours, is ideal.

There are many other reasons beside weight management to get a good nights sleep but for the purpose of this blog, if you are serious about getting your weight under control then it is time to commit to doing what it takes to improve your sleeping patterns. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"What's Up Doc?"

Want to lose weight and MAINTAIN it? Eat your vegetables! There is no way around it.  You don't like vegetables? Ask yourself this, "which don't I like more, vegetables or being overweight?"

I know it sounds cliche' but to lose and maintain you must MUST eat vegetables.  If you don't want to, then don't bother - you won't be successful long term.  This may sound harsh but I am being realistic and I prefer to manage people's expectations.

I break down my clients into three categories.  Those who eat a lot of vegetables and won't have to struggle with this behavior, those that eat vegetables but not enough and those that claim not to like them and are very resistant in making them an integral part of their diet. 

The last two, especially those that are resistant will not maintain their weight loss if they don't become committed to making this behavior change.  Here's why. Vegetables are full of fiber and low in calories so you can eat them in large quantities and feel full. Vegetables also replace the foods you are trying to eat less of.  For instance, many people are trying to cut down their starch intake (rice, pasta, potatoes).  The food on the plate shouldn't look smaller, just redistributed differently.  Vegetables are key in making that happen.  Because of the low calorie, low carbohydrate content, vegetables are an anytime food.  What I mean is, they are free.  At 25 calories per cup of raw vegetables and only 5 grams of carbohydrate plus no added ingredients, they help keep blood sugar stable.

When I have the resistant client who says they don't have time to prepare the vegetables or even worse the one who interprets this recommendation as a form of torture, I lay it on the line for them.  Want to lose weight and maintain it? Eat the vegetables that you do like and think about some that you would be willing to try.  Make sure to have them available.  It's not that difficult.  They come washed and cut into all pretty shapes and sizes at the supermarket already. 

I know that vegetables won't replace the chip or cookie craving.  That's because there is no added sugar or salt in vegetables.  If you are having cravings it is likely because your body is responding to the added ingredients in the foods you are eating.

Now that I'm on the topic of vegetables it's the perfect time to broach the subject of carrots.  I can't count how many times I have heard clients tell me they avoid carrots because of the sugar content yet they have no problem buying diet ice cream which is loaded with added carbohydrates.

Here's what I say about carrots.  "Did anyone ever gain weight eating carrots?" "Out of all things that can deter you from being successful, do you think eating carrots is one of them?"

Word to the wise.  Stop listening to what "THEY" say and start using your common sense.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is It Such a Sacrifice?

I had woman in my office recently, we will call her Ann, looking to lose weight.  I had seen Ann two years ago but she only came for one follow-up visit despite doing quite well the first week.  Ann admitted to me that that is her typical behavior, start something strong and then give up quickly.  Nonetheless, she was ready to start again.  We discussed what would be different this time and the need to recognize the hurdles that makes her give in. Ann complained of feeling tired from carrying an excess fifty pounds and worried about her impending health.  This time she was motivated. Nothing was going to stop her.

We started to review a meal plan and slowly went through the types of foods that would be most beneficial for weight loss.  I evaluated her current diet and we quickly recognized where things were falling apart. Together we developed a strategy to find the best ways to combine her lifestyle with making better food choices. 

At some point we got on the topic of mayonnaise.  Ann was shocked at the difference in serving sizes of regular versus low fat mayo. When I suggested she try the low fat if she prefers to use more mayo I received a look of such disgust as if I were asking her to eat something from the show Fear Factor.  She said she wouldn't consider eating something so grotesque. I was taken aback. Just thirty minutes ago, Ann was willing to do anything to feel better, now it was such as a sacrifice to choose a low fat variety over the regular.  The mayo choice suddenly took presidence over achieving her goals.

I called her on it. Believing that having to try a new food or change a food variety is such a sacrifice is an excuse.  You are looking, though not directly, for a reason to fail I told her.  Negative talk will not help you succeed. In fact, a study by Special K found that thinking positive about weight management help women to lose and maintain weight more successfully.

I have engaged in this scenario many times over the years.  If you find that when you think about changing your food intake to lose weight or get healthier but then you turn your nose up at having to choose foods that are 'out of the box' for you, think again.  Is it such as sacrifice to choose healthier foods? Which would you prefer, make healthier choices or stay in the state you are in?

Ann has been back several times.  She is doing well and has made some difficult, yet necessary changes.  She has chosen to use the regular mayo, just less of it.  Ann says she is motivated by how she feels.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Working on Change

My last blog talks about identifying the areas you struggle with the most.  It can be a very difficult task.  Many times I ask my client this and I find I am struggling to obtain an honest reply.  I am practically trying to pull the words out.  Not because anyone is looking to lie or not be forthcoming but more because the truth can be tough to admit.  You can say "my problem is" but now it's time to dig deeper.  Why is that "your problem."

In the example of the person who craves sweets at night, try to identify why you are craving sweets.  Is it emotional eating? Too many tempting foods in the house? Are you eating out of boredom? Some things may be easier to modify than others but they are necessary to fix the behavior. Seek as much help and support as you need to.  I can't predict success but I do know, what we don't change we will repeat.