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Cutting through the fat: Weight loss/ Healthy Eating (Part 1)

So I just stepped on the scale this morning, and didn’t like what I saw. Blame it on the holidays + my recent New Year’s vacation (darn you, daily brunch pomegranate mimosas!). Although I’m at a relatively healthy BMI (calculate yours HERE ), whenever I go above the weight that’s normal for me, it’s an indicator that I overdid it in the unhealthy eating department. So now I’m motivated to tune up my body and eat more healthily, as I’m sure many of us are. I bet there’s not one empty treadmill at the local gym right now! But as for going on “a diet”, it’s hard to know where to start.

Sooo many diets out there! (Intermittent fasting, CICO, HFLC, Atkins, Paleo, etc etc etc)…then of course there’s the miracle diet pill made from a leaf found on a tree that only grows in the Amazon), you get the idea! But look, I’m all about simplicity. Like I tell my patients, weight loss is simple, but hard.

SIMPLE because the concept is: take in less calories, your body will burn excess fat to give itself energy. Eat too many calories, you body stores the extra energy in the form of fat.

HARD because although this concept makes sense, we find it hard to lose weight for a myriad of reasons. Key issues I’ve identified from the people I treat are:

-Lack of awareness of calorie intake: humans are notorious for underestimating how many calories are in certain foods. Guess the number of calories in a McDonald’s Kale salad? It’s 730…. that’s about 3 packs of peanut M&Ms. See my point?
-etting fooled by marketing of “healthy foods”
-Over-reliance on exercise as a weight loss tool: How many times have I heard “I’m exercising 30 mins a day now and I’m not losing weight!!” Then I ask “have you changed what you’re eating? [crickets] As awesome as exercise is, it takes time to burn off that McDonald’s kale salad. In very general terms, probably about 2 hours doing most types of activities. Click HERE to see how many calories you would burn during various exercises

That being said, on my first visit with patients when discussing weight loss, I don’t dive right into weight loss tips. The first, most important part, is the Informational Gathering phase:

MAKE A REALISTIC GOAL: Losing 50 lbs in 3 months? Possible, but not likely without making drastic and likely unhealthy diet choices. I always emphasize; I don’t believe in dieting.  If there was an effective diet out there, everybody would be on it and we’d all look like Naomi Campbell or Jason Statham. I believe in lifestyle modifications that are sustainable. So realistically 1-2 lb a week is a safe goal.

KNOW YOUR DAILY CALORIE INTAKE LIMIT TO REACH YOUR GOAL: I love using this Calculator: input your data so you can calculate your personalized calorie goal.

START READING LABELS: Again, knowledge is power!! For any food you eat that has a label, you should know how many calories is in a serving, how many servings you’re eating, and I specifically like to see the amount of carbohydrates and fat in there. This practice starts building awareness.

KNOW YOUR FOOD’S CALORIC CONTENT: This one is tricky: I don’t like to overwhelm people with the concept of calorie counting because that can become obsessive, but I do think it’s important to ballpark that a banana is about 100 calories, 1 cup of white rice is about 200 calories etc. Because how else can we cut our caloric intake by 300 calories daily (the average amount it takes to lose a pound a week).  If  you’re into apps, I use MyNetDiary because you can type in your food item and see how many calories are in there, and then also use the app to….

START A FOOD DIARY: The goal of this is to increase awareness of exactly what’s going down your piehole (why does that word amuse me so much hehe). And somehow, it tends to make one more accountable; if you know you have to document that slice of cheesecake, maybe you think twice before indulging. It’s like psychological self-manipulation! Then, I like to review the food diary with patients on a regular basis and help identify patterns of poor choices, so we can make changes.

WEIGH YOURSELF FREQUENTLY: You wouldn’t believe how afraid people are of the scale. Many patients visit me monthly for their weight loss visits, and only get their weight checked at the clinic. Personally, I hop on the scale every morning at the same time (before breakfast), so I can see where I’m at and where I’m going; and if the scale is going in the wrong direction I’m more motivated to reign it in. However, if the thought of daily weigh ins are giving you palpitations,  I would then recommend at least once a week. Knowledge is power!

Once we’ve mastered Part 1, then we’re ready for Part 2, where we actually use the information to make a weight loss plan. Stay tuned!

 

[small disclaimer: this post is about eating healthily, and includes weight loss tips for those that need to get to a healthy weight. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you have medical conditions or take medications] 

5 Health Hacks To Avoid The Dreaded Holiday Bulge

Every new year, it’s the same.  Patients that I haven’t seen since the holidays come in for their first doctor visit of the year. Their blood pressure is 20 points higher, their sugars are out of whack, and they’ve packed on an extra 10 + pounds.  In the exam room, they can barely meet my eyes when they admit “ Doc, I really overdid it around the holidays !  I couldn’t resist all the [insert ridiculously unhealthy holiday food]!”

I call it the HOLIDAY EFFECT, and it sucks for both the patient and for me, because weight gain is associated with higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, higher blood sugars, arthritis …the list goes on and on.

I see the holiday effect in 60-70% of my patients, and that’s not an exaggeration. But sometimes, in comes the Miracle Patient who has managed not to overindulge, has kept their weight steady, or even more shockingly, has intentionally LOST WEIGHT over the holidays. For this patient (let’s call them Mr/ Ms Smith”, I  give a SLOW CLAP (I really do), and then ask “ Mr (s) Smith, how did you do it?!” Time, and time again I hear the same advice, and this is what I want to pass on to you today, just in time for the last Holiday feast!

 

FIVE  HEALTH HACKS  TO OFFSET THE HOLIDAY EFFECT:

1. CHANGE YOUR PLATE REAL ESTATE

Mr(s) Smith came to the buffet line with a game plan, and you should too! Before reaching for the serving spoon, scope out all the options. Then make your way over to the salad and vegetable portions and make sure half your plate is filled with that (and no, apple pie is not considered a fruit *side eye * )  What you want to do with the other half of your plate is up to you, but now you’re forced to have smaller portions of less healthy stuff. Win!

2. MAKE A VOW TO SKIP THAT SECOND PLATE

Mr(s) Smith didn’t totally skip holiday dinner or dessert. Let’s be real, and not sabotage ourselves with unrealistic goals. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity for spending time with loved ones, and special seasonal treats which help make this time of year special and enjoyable. The thought of skipping it altogether is sad.

So instead, practice PORTION control. Don’t use Christmas dinner as an excuse to pig out completely. Taste a bit of everything on the buffet if you like, but try not to pile the plate too high (which defeats the purpose of portion control), and then resist the urge to reach for seconds. Bonus points if you eat slowly, because after 20 -30 mins your brain will let your body realize that actually, you’re not hungry anymore and actually, you DON’T need that extra dinner roll!

3. DON’T PLAY WITH FIRE 

We can sabotage ourselves way before the holiday party. Just walk into the grocery store this time of year, and you’ll be immediately assailed with delicious pumpkin pies at “BUY ONE GET ONE HALF OFF!!”.  Mr(s) Smith probably bee-lined to the pie shelf, threw a box in the grocery cart, looked down and then….put it back on the shelf. Walked away.  Mr(s) Smith is the epitome of self-control.

When people moan about how they hate themselves  for how much butter pecan ice cream they scarfed down at 2 am the night before, I like to ask the simple question “if you don’t want to eat it, why is it in your freezer?”. The point is, let’s not set ourselves up for failure, and then act surprised when we fail.

4. WALK IT OFF

The thought of exercise- especially in colder climates when an evening stroll around the neighborhood requires 5 layers of clothing, or after you fall into a food coma- isn’t very appealing. But the walk doesn’t have to be outside. Commit to at least 20 minutes of physical activity on most days, it can be as simple as walking in place while watching Jeopardy in the evening. Exercise is proven to help keep weight off , and help offset the holiday blues if you’re prone to it.

Just a caveat: A 30 minute walk, on average, burns only 150-200 calories (depending on weight, speed of walking of course).  One cup of eggnog is about 350 calories.  Here is a list of calories in common foods. See my point? If you eat crap, don’t expect that 30 minute walk to help you lose weight. But at least it may help offset the extra poundage you might have gained otherwise. And of course, exercise has a host of benefits that has nothing to do with weight loss (click here) 

5. IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED….

OK, you had the best intentions. You were doing amazingly well. Then, Aunt Shirley rolled in to the party with your FAVORITE macaroni pie, and you were powerless in the face of that 4 cheese crust.  Three plates later and you’re overwhelmed with a wave of guilt, and start searching for the towel so you can just throw it in until January 1.  DON’T DO IT!

So you had a bad day, my friend. Tomorrow is a new day. If you eat right 90% of the time, then overall you’re doing GREAT!  Mr (s) Smith doesn’t  beat themselves up too hard, they just commit to doing better the next day. And they DEFINITELY wouldn’t take any of that macaroni pie home; they know that thing is kryptonite!

So now that you’re armed with Mr(s) Smith’s secrets for success, I wish you a Merry rest of the Holiday Season! And tune in for an upcoming blog in a few weeks where we’ll review a post-holiday detox plan.

Cheers to healthful happiness !

Dr K.