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Posts tagged ‘dieting’

“Should I Juice?”

This is what a friend of mine asked me recently. Since I am obsessed with fitness and nutrition, I would have thought this question had been answered and settled long ago. I forget for people who don’t think about this stuff all the time, this might be the first time they heard of juicing. I have two answers. One, you’re a grownup, do what you want, and two, no, it won’t do what people are telling you it will do.

I told my friend that if what she wanted to do is fast, sure, go ahead. She said, “No, this isn’t fasting, as least they don’t say it is”. Let me assure you,unless you are on TPN, if all you are consuming is two glasses of juice a day, you are fasting. Or even three glasses. Just drinking the juice of a plant or fruit in limited quantities is not enough calories for a day. And yes, you will lose tons of weight, since you are not eating enough. And yes, you will gain it all back, plus some, the minute you resume normal eating because while you were fasting, you weren’t establishing better eating habits and you probably weren’t exercising because you felt like a limp noodle.

So my friend said, “what if I put it all in a blender and make a smoothie?” Well, that is better, at least you are getting the fiber and bulk, and that will slow down all that sugar from hitting your bloodstream at once, but still, what have you learned? Are you planning on eating that way the rest of your life? What is your transition plan? Plus, all those foods are delicious. Why put them into a blender and end up with something you can barely tolerate?

That brings me to my next point- most people pushing juicing are doing so to sell something. Either a powder to add to the juice, or a juicer, or their book. Anytime you see a “new” diet method, follow the money. What are they selling.

So, juice or smoothie if that’s what you love. Remember it has calories, so if you are adding juice to your diet, replace something else. In fact, you want me to support your juicing, tell me it replaced doughnuts in your life, then I’ll be on board all the way! A fruit and vegetable smoothie is a GREAT replacement to 90% of what Americans eat for breakfast. Add some yogurt or protein powder and have that. I’m not against those things by themselves, I’m against people trying to lose weight with JUST those, and no plan. Remember the “sensible meal” part, and learn what that is.

Your Weekly Pep Talk

I know some of you out there are really struggling with your weight. I don’t like to make weight the main issue, health is far more important, and while there is a correlation between the two, most people focus on weight for appearances. I like to refer to it as healthy eating. Healthy eating usually leads to weight loss, since most people don’t get too overweight on eggplant and okra, even if it is fried.

I’m here to give you a pep talk.

All the right information is already out there, it’s just so much easier to succumb to the “lose weight fast” garbage. So I’m just going to give you another reinforcement of the good stuff so you can renew your efforts this week.


What are the sticking points for you? Quantity? Feeling hungry? Favorite foods you don’t want to give up? Psychological need to treat yourself? Everyone is different. Take a piece of paper and write down your problem areas. Be specific. Write “Every night I REALLY want a bowl of cereal. I can’t go to sleep without it”. Or, “Going out to eat makes me so happy, I can’t give it up.” “I won’t or can’t cook.”

Make a plan

When it comes to food, planning is everything. Like spending, it is the impulse items that get you every time. Even if you don’t count calories, you need to control portions, and decide  what you are going to eat when you are hungry ahead of time. Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus any snacks you need. If you need a good quantity of food, plan to add a large salad to each meal- yes, you can eat greens for breakfast. Really clamp down on the starch and fatty foods, and decide how you can increase your vegetable and fruit intake. Swap hot dogs for fat free ham or turkey, add 2x as much lettuce, tomato and onions to your sandwich.

Some things are a given, if you are still eating white bread or pasta, swap it out for whole wheat immediately. No one should be eating white bread any more. Make sure your pasta and potato servings are 1/2 cup. Put that potato in your one half measuring cup. If it won’t fit, eat half. Buy one box of “white wheat pasta”, whole wheat or Barilla’s protein plus. Cook your pasta, rice and potatoes ahead of time and reheat- it makes more of the starch resistant, meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar as high. A lot of starches are empty calories, and cause bouncing blood sugar that makes you hungrier sooner. Empty calories mean they don’t have any nutritional value other than calories.

If you can’t or won’t cook, read menus and labels carefully. All restaurants are supposed to have their calorie counts available. Choose carefully and stick with it. Be ready to ask for a “to-go” box early in the meal and place 1/2 in it, or split it, if the meal is over your calorie limit. Remember the 1/2 cup for starches? Most restaurant potatoes are double that, so don’t eat the whole thing. Many supermarkets have salad bars and take out items, again, choose carefully. Cheese should be a condiment. Olives are high in fat, hence calories, so go sparingly on them. Treat breaded and fried things like the plague.

Address your needs.

If you are a sweets lover, don’t sit here and say “I just won’t eat them.” You can try that, but it won’t work for long. Instead, find healthier sweets by making or baking your own, or buying less harmful ones. Portion control on sweets is hard for people. My husband and I will cut a Klondike bar in half to make it more reasonable. Make sure you are eating till full of the good food, so you aren’t eating sweets when you are hungry. Don’t keep “trigger” foods in your house. I can’t have trail mix in my house. Every time I do, I eat 2-3 portions a day. Find a sweet that satisfies you without causing binging.

I hope something I’ve said here resonates with you, and that you will feel empowered to make some constructive changes or get back on track. Eating isn’t black and white, it is a continuum. Don’t get discouraged, at any point you can improve, and that’s all you need to do.


Today is just a rant. I’m reading a book “The Cure for Everything” by Timothy Caulfield. He didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but he reminded me of all my favorite hobby horses, leading to this rant.

purple and white laser blasting rings

Ouch! Don’t do this!

First of all, you can’t burn fat, melt fat, zap fat, or do anything but slowly lose it. Well, ok, you can melt or burn it, but it involves fire or lasers, not something I want to do. Fat is made up of fat cells. Cells. You know, the stuff you body makes? It isn’t some foreign substance that got laid over your hips. Your body made it to store the excess calories you ate. How do you get rid of it? Basic laws of thermodynamics – reduce the intake, increase the output. Your car can’t get fat, it only can hold whatever the tank holds. The gas nozzle shuts off when it is full. Unfortunately, we don’t have automatic shut offs.

So stop getting disgusted with yourself, going on some weird diet, taking pills, or exercising till you fall over. Instead, take an honest look at what and how much you are eating, and change it. Trade the sweet tea for unsweet. Stay OUT of the bakery department. OUT. DO NOT GO IN. Don’t buy loaves of bread, or keep them in the freezer. While bread is not evil, it is a lot of empty calories. Buy smaller plates. In fact, go in your kitchen right now and measure your plates. If they are greater than 9″, go find some 9″ diameter plates and use only those. Make half of that plate vegetables. Do all that and see where you are in three months. You didn’t get in this mess overnight, you won’t get out of it overnight. And even if you could, you’d just go back to your original size because you wouldn’t have changed anything. Eat lots and lots of veggies. Low in calories, high in everything that will make you live long and prosper.

Last, not everyone will be happy at a size 8. If you love food, and won’t give up certain things, make peace with it and be happy. It’s healthier to be a size 12 and stay there, than it is to yo-yo back and forth. Fitness and health is about a lot more than just weight. Most people will not look like swimsuit models or Brad Pitt. Get over it and get happy. Oh, and unless you are anorectic, you will probably have some cellulite.  And even if you work out, the back of your arms will jiggle a bit too. It’s not a crime and people won’t judge you for it. If they do, ask them to jiggle theirs. Join the party and jiggle with us.

The trouble with Tracking, and the Importance of Real Food

One of my clients is trying to lose weight, tells me she is doing all the right things, yet isn’t getting results. Now I’m going to say something that flies in the face of what we’d like to hear. Diets do work, and the math doesn’t lie.


Knowing how many calories you are eating is not easy. Knowing nutritional content is even harder. Staying on top of all this and not getting lazy or discouraged is even harder. I use tracking software, Myfitnesspal, and I play around with Fooducate. Even with that kind of help, it is very hard to get accurate answers. Either you have to spend a lot of time putting in every recipe, or you cheat and use someone else’s, which may or may not be close, and then you have to either measure the amounts you ate or guesstimate. User added information is not always reliable, and it doesn’t show the ingredients or amounts of mixed dishes like tuna salad. My fitness pal has a REALLY cool feature now where you can put the URL of the recipe you used and it puts it all in. However, that only works if you are using an online recipe. My recipes usually consist of

  1. What is in the house this minute.
  2. What might taste good together, or at least not be gross.
  3. Trying to follow a recipe, but seeing changes that might be good.

Still, that feature will make things a lot easier, because I can find a recipe that’s really close to what I made and get a more accurate log.

Outside of trying to help my client, it was really bugging me that my mineral content on Myfitnesspal was really low. While I do know that some of the user entries don’t include anything beyond calories, or possibly macronutrients, I didn’t think it was that far off.  I questioned the Nutrition Diva, and she suggested that it was inaccurate user data. I looked back and saw many things had no mineral content, and I know the items I had listed had some, so I’m assuming she’s right.  This reinforces the knowledge that unless you have access to a really sound database, and are diligent about measuring and logging, your information will always be vague.

Which brings me to my next point. We all have to be as dedicated as possible to eating whole, nutrient dense, minimally processed foods. This means fruits and veggies, dairy, lean meats and fish, legumes, nuts and seeds and whole grains. Don’t comment, I do realize that grains are seeds. A cracker is usually not a whole grain. A whole grain is one that resembles the seed as it grew. If we eat like that, with most of our plate being veggies, and everything else in smaller amounts, keep the bread to 1-2 servings a day, treat full fat items as condiments, and keep added sugar out as much as possible, we can cover what our tracking is missing.

To illustrate, I have the info for a Ritz Cracker. What does it have, besides calories and fat?

NUTRITION FACTS for a Ritz Cracker

Serving size 5 crackers (16g)
Calories 80 Kcal
Calories from Fat 40 Kcal
Total Fat 4.5 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 105 mg
Total Carbohydrate 10 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 1 g
Protein 0.25 g
Vitamin A 0 IU
Vitamin C 0 mg
Calcium 20 mg
Iron 0.36 mg

Even my beloved Triscuits, yes, some fiber and protein, paired with more calories, although if you notice, a serving of Triscuits is almost twice as much food, for only 1/3 more calories.

NUTRITION FACTS for a Triscuit

Serving size 6 crackers (28g)
Calories 120 Kcal
Calories from Fat 35 Kcal
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 180 mg
Total Carbohydrate 20 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 3 g
Vitamin A 0 IU
Vitamin C 0 mg
Calcium 0 mg
Iron 1.44 mg

Now lets see a carrot:


Serving size 1 carrot, 100g
Calories 41 Kcal
Total Fat 0.3 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 88 mg
Total Carbohydrate 12 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Sugars 6 g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A 21384 IU
Vitamin C 8 mg
Calcium 42 mg
Iron 0 mg

Grains give us energy (calories) and they taste good, but the above illustrates why they should only take up a quarter of your meal. For half the calories of the Ritz, in a carrot you get twice the calcium, 4 times the amount of fiber, pretty much your whole days worth of vitamin a, less salt and half the carbs. Pair the carrots with homemade humus and you’ll have a snack that will last all afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t ever eat a Triscuit, just realize when you are hungry and trying to lose weight, vegetables and fruit are your best friends. You do need the calories from grains, and as long as they are whole grains, you are getting good stuff from them. Ritz are off my list, first, they have transfats- if it says hydrogenated oil on the label, it has transfats- there is a label loophole that lets them say 0 grams. Second, they are much more processed than Triscuits, no fiber or protein to speak of, plus more sugar.  Still Wasa rye crisps are far better than either of the other cracker choices, but I have to admit, for Americans it’s a bit of a stretch. No fat. How do they make them stick together?

Brilliant facts

Whole grain rye flour, Salt

Nutrition facts

Serving size: 2 Slice (18g)
Servings per container: about 15

Nutritional information
Per Serving (%Daily Value)
Calories  60
Total Fat 0g (0%)
Saturated Fat 0g (0%)
Trans fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 70mg (3%)
Total Carbohydrate 14g (5%)
Dietary Fiber 3g (12%)
Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 2%

What’s the Plan?

It’s all calories

Having said that, many people find it easier to cut calories by following some sort of plan. I’m all for that-would you try to get somewhere without a map? Plus, you need to figure out how to best “spend” those calories, to get the most nutrition and pleasure from them. But which plan? And why? There are plenty to choose from, and they are contradictory. There’s paleo, low carb, Atkins, vegan or vegetarian, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Mediterranean and DASH diets, just to name some of the popular ones.

Not all plans are equal

Remember the Donner party? They were following someone’s instructions, and look where that got them. Most popular eating plans will get you to lose weight. My question is, how do they transition you to maintenance, and how nutritionally sound are they?

“Eliminate these foods and you’ll lose weight”

For some reason, people love the idea of cutting out certain foods and they’ll magically lose weight. I just read this article about Tom Arnold’s weight loss, and it was teased with “He immediately cut these two foods”. However, there was a “rest of the story”:

To ensure that he was healthy for his son, he admitted to immediately dropping cake and bread from his diet. He also told the mag that he eliminated the six-egg omelet extravaganza with six turkey sausage links and oatmeal that he had been eating for breakfast as well as the extra-large meat pizza with breadsticks dipped in cheese that he had been consuming for dinner.

He had to also stop eating so much. You don’t have to eliminate bread, but eating too much of it will make you gain weight. You could eat the healthiest foods in the world, but if you eat mass quantities, you’ll still be heavy.

So what’s the plan?

There are guidelines for choosing a plan. Anything that bans basic food groups is suspect in my book. While many of these types of plans are very effective in weight loss, they fail in transition, since people just go back to eating the banned foods and gain the weight back. Unless you are a dietician, once you ban a whole food group, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies.

How healthy are the foods they allow? Some popular plans sell foods, and often they are chemical cocktails. I’m a big fan of weight watchers in general, but their prepackaged foods are a nightmare of chemicals and fake food. Any diet that says potato chips are ok is also a loser.

Could you stay on this diet for the rest of your life? Real diets should just be eating what you can eat all the time, just less. If the diet you are looking at isn’t the way you want to eat for the rest of your life, keep looking.

So, how about you? Are you “on a diet”? Is this the way you want to eat the rest of your life? Can you hardly wait to “get back to normal”? Let me know. Let’s start a conversation.

Do the math.

How to lose weight:

Oooh, here it is, the big secrete. At it’s heart, weight loss is a math problem. Start with your basic metabolic rate; Weight divided by 2.2, x.9(for a woman), 1 for a man , x24. That total is the number of calories it takes to keep you alive, at your current weight, the amount you burn just breathing, digesting and metabolizing, for one day. The amount of activity you do will determine the amount of calories above this will be needed to maintain weight. If you are sedentary, add 25% to that total. Moderately active, add 50%, extremely active, 75%-100%. Of course, these are estimates. You can buy devices that will actually measure your activity output.

If you want to lose weight, you need to consume 500 fewer calories than your total out put to lose weight. So take whatever total you got above, subtract 500 and that is the starting point for  weight loss.

So lets say you are a 135 lb, moderately active woman.

Divide 135 by 2.2=61.36 (your weight in Kilograms)

61.36 x.9=55.224 – How many calories an hour you burn. 55.224 x 24= 1,325.376 – or your basic metabolic rate.

1,326 x.5 = 663,  663 +1,326 =1,989- rough estimate of maintenance.

1,989-500= 1,489 -The amount of calories, roughly, that would equal weight loss. You would start with this number and see what happens. If you don’t lose weight, you know you have to dial it back. It is rough, because we don’t burn the same amount of calories at all times. There are devices like the fitbit, jawbone, or plenty of others that can help you know what to do. There are also lots of great apps to help track what you eat, and count the calories for you.

There, was that the sexy secret you were waiting for? Sorry, weight loss is not sexy. Don’t tell me you starve yourself and can’t lose weight. There are no fat people in food deprived areas.

Having said all this. The math is the easiest part. The hard part is cutting calories and not feeling hungry or deprived. You can just cut 300 calories and exercise 200 calories more worth. Making drastic cuts is not the way, since you will go back to over eating when you start to eat again. The little day to day tweaks will help, then you create a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life. Remember, it is only 500 calories a day between loss and maintenance. Since we all have binge days, all days have to be somewhat like loss, to balance out the overage days.

So go home, do the math, and start logging what you eat. Oh, and I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but people WILL lie to you, especially to sell you stuff. Weight loss supplement commercials are full of lies and half truths. Learn the facts, that will protect you from the lies.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World” is a poem by William Ross Wallace that praises motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world.

-Quoted from Wikipedia

That was a belief that shaped our country. It is was led to the education of women, and the idea of universal education. Only an educated nation could support a healthy democracy. The founders of the country realized the mothers of the nation shaped the future leaders.

 The exact same truth applies to health. Georgia has a media campaign to reduce childhood obesity. It has aroused major controversy since it is not narrowly focused at the parents, but seems to target the kids too. This is a mistake. Until adolescence, children’s food intake is almost completely controlled by the parents, both in quantity and quality. This puts the full burden on the parents shoulders. If you are a parent, you are transmitting everything you feel, think and believe about eating and exercise. It isn’t hard to see this, heavy parents often have heavy kids. It would be easy to blame this on genetics, but it is easy to see where daily choices make all the difference. For example, if it were only genetics, obesity wouldn’t be on the rise so quickly.

One of the most crucial things you, the parent, are doing, is creating favorite foods and comfort foods. Our deep psychological relationship with food is created in childhood. If you serve healthy food most of the time, you are training your children’s palates to prefer those foods. If you serve high fat and sugar food, that is what your child will prefer, making weight loss in later life that much harder.How often do you serve pizza, cake, hot dogs, french fries and pop? What is a treat in your house? Is a desert one cookie or three? Are you terrified to let your kid go to bed hungry? ( Children will not starve themselves.) If you are heavy, if your children are heavy, get educated and make changes as fast as possible, for their future. It is very, very hard to lose weight. Why put that on your kids? Help them not gain it in the first place.

If you hate to exercise, chances are your children will to. If you won’t take a walk, how can they? If you won’t ride a bike, how are you going to teach them? Trying to find work arounds, without changing yourself, may mitigate some effects, like enrolling them in sports, but they will largely be modeling themselves after you. If you are afraid to try something new, for fear of making a fool of yourself, how can your kids see courage modeled?

Hopefully this will encourage you to make changes in your life now. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the children.

Is there much of a difference between calories and money?

Frying up some dough.

Frying up some dough.

I was thinking about this topic as I made my breakfast. Mostly because the money part gets a little frustrating. When you are married, for most of us, it is “our money”. So if you are a budgeter, fusser, worrier, and believe money should only be spent after careful thought and consideration, and you are married to a “let’s spend it before we die” person, there is a little room for tension.

You can easily see where the idea of budgeting fits into eating. If you want to maintain or lose weight, you only have so many calories to “spend”. Trying to lose weight is like trying to save for a vacation, you have to not spend wherever possible. Maintenance in eating is like simply not going into debt with money.

The parallels are numerous. Different strategies work for different people in both arenas. Some are better at cutting out the little luxuries, others feel deprived, and would rather make some drastic cut in one place rather than give up the little things.

The interesting thing is in our house, my husband and I have the same differences about eating that we do about money. The same struggles we come to in reaching financial decisions are exactly the ones we have in reaching a dietary consensus. The more I reflect on this, the more obvious the similarities are.

Here is my question for you- Do you see the parallels in your spending and eating habits? Are you disciplined in one, and not the other, or do the problems in one arena mirror the other?

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