Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Thanksgiving Lighten Up Without Giving Up

I came across a great article by Rocco DiSpirito about a  better way to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner that preserves flavor while slashing the calories.  It's an excellent lesson in food preparation that goes way past the Holiday Season.  Eating lower calorie food doesn't mean giving up what you like, it just means you need to be smarter about how you cook.  There are all kinds of alternative ways to prepare the foods you like that still deliver great flavor and satisfaction, but with less calories and fat.

Here is an excerpt:

To scale things down, I've used turkey breast, whole-wheat bread for the stuffing, a cranberry sauce made with agave nectar rather than sugar, and a delicious low-fat gravy. This recipe will satisfy anyone in your family for just 303 calories and 6 grams of fat. A comparable regular dinner would weigh in at 1,450 calories and 58 grams of fat.

His full article contains complete recipe and cooking instructions.  It's not too late to work these lower calorie approaches into your upcoming meal preparations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Overeating - It's Not Just For Thanksgiving

A big part of of the weight problem can be attributed to overeating, something that is readily associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In fact, for most of us it's considered acceptable and even mandatory that we throw out any reservations about how much we eat and what we eat during these traditional holiday celebrations.  But in our modern day world, overeating is not limited to seasonal binges, it happens everyday.  In fact, with our super-size culture most of us have any clue as to how much is too much. 

The reality of overeating, is that its not about eating huge amounts of food, it can be defined as eating more than your body needs to sustain itself.  Everyone needs a certain amount of calories to sustain their normal bodily activities on a daily basis.  Anything beyond that can generate unwanted pounds.  Thus, if you eat more than you need (calorie-wise) you are technically overeating.

If weight loss is on your mind, then you need to focus on what is contributing to yours and a great place to begin is to anaylze your eating habits.  I have posted plenty of information on this subject which can be found throughout this website and in my book.  I also came across an interesting blog post from someone else on this subject that is worthy of reading. 

From Feast To Fat: Living In A World Of Plenty gives a unique perspective on how bad our eating habits have become and who we might effect a change that will yield less intake and less pounds. 

I used to be a "shoveler" - speed eater - but have gradually changed my lfestyle to that of a slow speed racer, meaning he who eats the slowest wins.  Slow eating yields less food intake!  It takes time and effort to change your ways, so get started today.  Don't wait until New Year's to make a resolution, as by then you will probalby have gained more weight.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - Keeping It Under Control

Thanksgiving meals are not known for their low calorie choices.  In fact, most people don't pay attention to the concept at all (until too late) choosing instead to figure out just how much food they can possibly cram into every square inch of their body cavities.  It's amazing how large the stomach can expand when force-fed huge gluttonous amounts of gastric delights.  Then when its all over, everyone retires to the closest couch to lament on how much they ate and how bad they feel.  Gradually the conversation transitions to snoring, as much of the family burns off the food they just consumed.  If only sleeping really burned off those thousands of calories.

Sadly there is nothing very healthy about the traditional Thanksgiving meal and all the successive meals composed of the leftovers.  But it doesn't have to be that way, as their are plenty of creative ways to cook healthy for this annual food marathon.

Check out this article by Stepfanie Romine - Comfort Foods Without All The Calories which provides some creative food options for the big meal.  Who ever said that you have to eat an unhealthy meal at Thanksgiving.  This year, give yourself and your family an early Christmas Gift - no unnecessary pounds! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - Short Term Pleasure - Long Term Food Debt

Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means celebrations, family gatherings, tons of food and long term food debt.  And no, I'm not referring to the cost of preparing a feast (though that van be pricey as well) I'm referring to the calories you are likely to consume over the course of the holiday.  The reality is that there is a heavy price to pay for all that eating, which is akin to taking on debt, because you are going to have to work longer and harder to burn it all off.   And worse yet, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of an extended period of potential weight gain that stretches all the way to early January.  And in case you haven't noticed, its a lot easier to put on weight than to get rid of it!

The really sad thing about eating too much stuff, is that its a short term pleasure that has long term consequences.  One of the things I practice is reminding myself that while it tastes great right now, fifteen minutes after I finish eating, all the pleasure will be gone.  Though it took a while to instill that in my brain, I am pretty good at using it to limit my food intake.  Think about the regret BEFORE you eat, rather than later when you feel the need to loosen your clothing and take a nap due to the over-indulgence.

Now is a good time to start paying attention to the calories that come with traditional dishes associated with Thanksgiving.  A cup of cranberry sauce can easily be 400+ calories.  A large slice of turkey clocks in at 300 calories.  Add a healthy heaping of mashed potatoes for another 240 calories, plus a mound of stuffing that cashes in around 400 calories.  And lets not forget the bread and butter - 250 calories. And who can turn down pumpkin pie with a healthy shot of whipped cream?  Try 400 calories.  Grand total food debt from just these basic items - about 2000 calories.  But considering that I have never seen a Thanksgiving Dinner with that few food choices, I'm willing to bet the total calories will climb much higher.

We all know that debt is bad and the best way to avoid it is to spend within your means.  Translating this to food debt, eat within your daily calorie limits.  And yes it can be done with Thanksgiving!  You don't have to deprive yourself of a good meal, you just need to pre-plan your approach in order to keep things under control.

To be successful, there are two key factors that need to be addressed: overeating & high calorie foods.  Here are my approaches to handling both areas:
  • Commit to eating very slowly in order to allow yourself to fill up quickly.  Then stop when you are full.
  • If you eat slow enough, you may even lose your appetite, which makes it even easier to avoid the temptation of eating everything in site.
  • When you have the urge for "seconds" remind yourself that it will take a lot longer to burn off that extra food than it will to eat it.
  • Grandma might be offended if you don't go for seconds, thirds, etc.  Eat slowly, but make it look like you are eating a lot.  If there is always food on your plate, she will think you too are overeating like everyone else.
  • Take an active role in meal preparation and focus on lighter fare.  There are plenty of traditional dishes that can be created in such a way as to maximize flavor while minimizing calories.
  • Know your food calories!  Take smaller portions of high calorie items and larger portions of low calorie foods.  Try to fill up on the low calorie stuff.
  • Plan some form of exercise immediately following the meal.  Avoid couches and recliners, no matter who is playing football.  A 30-45 minute walk isn't enough to burn off the meal, but its a simple way to start attacking the food debt that you took own.
This Thanksgiving, do not be led mindlessly to the food trough like millions of other Americans.  It's just a meal!  Focus on enjoying the time spent with others, rather than than eating a big meal that will have no positive impact on your life.  Remember, its a only short term pleasure that comes with term conequences.  Is it really worth it??????????????

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sitting Disease? I Think I Have That One Covered

I'm sure you have heard the reports by now, that more than 90,000 new cancer cases each year in the US may be the result of prolonged periods of sitting.  (Get Up! Sitting Linked To Cancer - Nanci Hellmich - USA Today) Specifically mentioned are breast and colon cancer.

Researchers have known for years that there is a correlation between physical activity and the development of chronic diseases, but the latest analysis brings a lot more attention to the link.  To put it bluntly, in a study of 123,000 people researchers found that the more time people spent sitting, the higher their risk of dying early. In fact they even gave it a name "sitting disease."

Whats even more disturbing is that this isn't limited to those who are sedentary, it also applies to people who are regularly active.  For example, someone who participates in 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day, but still spends many hours in a chair is just as likely to get "sitting disease" as someone who is a total couch potato.

Personally, I have found that sitting too long makes my body stiff and grumpy, so I figured out a long time ago that I needed to get out of the office chair and move around.  Then when I started my weight loss program, I further keyed in on the fact that I wasn't burning off very many calories while parked on my butt, so I made it part of my daily routine to get up and engage in some kind of physical activity on a regular basis.

For example, most of my days are spent working from a home office (lucky me) so I usually ditch the chair once per hour and go outside and walk around my pool.  It takes 50 steps to go around the 20x40 concrete sidewalk.  40 laps equals one mile. (I never quit with the numbers!)  I don't go any set distance as I have a very busy schedule, but I still get in steps towards my minimum goal of 10,000 per day.  In addition, when I have phone calls to make, I usually do them while walking around the pool.  For rainy days, I do conference calls from a treadmill at slow speed.

Of course not everyone has the ability to go in their backyard during work hours to walk.  But don't let that be an excuse.  Even when I go to our corporate offices, I do the same basic thing, but use the back parking lot instead.  I've raised a few eyebrows walking in circles dodging cars, but its not really that difficult.  In fact its a great way to handle long conference calls, as the traffic is actually almost nonexistent which keeps the background levels low.  And I get my steps in! 

It really doesn't matter where I am, I always find a way to get up and move around frequently!  Not because of a cancer risk - I didn't know there was one - but because it is part of my daily weight management routine.

So maybe in the grand scheme of things, the link between sitting and cancer will get more people on their feet, moving towards a healthier lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weight Loss - 5 Simple Steps To Get Started

I read an article from Gregory Ramey, PhD who is a child psychologist about weight loss for kids.  I couldn't find an online version to point you towards, so I will just cover the high points, which really apply to everyone, not just children.  In the article, Dr. Ramey sets out these five key principles for weight management:
Weight Control Is About Self Control - Controlling one's weight is about exerting self control.  That means denying yourself something that feels good today for the benefits of looking better for tomorrow.  (BTW - I am more about modification than denial.)
Set Realistic Goals - The real purpose is to gradually change bad habits and focus on living a well-rounded healthy lifestyle rather than achieving a short-term weight loss. (1-2 pounds per week maximum!)

Clean House - It's just too tempting to have junk food in the cabinets and refrigerator.  Get rid of all that stuff!  (BTW - that means getting rid of it by throwing it out, not eating it all up!)

Increase Your Activity - Focus less attention on the numbers on a scale and more on developing healthy habits.  Find something physical that can be enjoyed on a regular basis.  Avoid the TV, computers, video games, etc.  (Of course, you can put a treadmill in front of your electronics and actually get a workout while playing.)

Make It A Family Affair - A child's weight management program, or even an adult's is likely to fail without family involvement and support.  Plus as a parent, you should be setting a good example for your kids - nothing like a fat Dad telling his kid to go run around the block five times...  better to lead the way.  Meals are really the toughest aspect of this category, as its nearly impossible to have one person eating healthy while everyone else around them is eating the same old, same old bad stuff.  (It's hard to switch to broccoli when everyone else is eating french fries - the smell alone is enough to put an end to the effort.)

Really in truly, successful weight loss is more about common sense than anything else.  Oh sure, its easier said than done, because you have to change years of bad habits and that is hard, but don't make things any more difficult than they are.  Focus on gradual changes to lifestyle.  Apply these 5 things and once they are routine, then add another layer of changes , and then another layer until you finally find yourself on the right path.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Learn More - Burn More

In case you haven't noticed, I'm all about walking.  That's not to say its the best exercise for weight loss -  I never claimed it was - but rather it's what works for me.  And that is one of the most important criteria when starting a weight loss program: choosing a form of fitness that's right for you and can be actively pursued forever.  Remember, successful weight loss is not a short term proposition!

But just burning calories may not be enough, as the body can do strange things when it comes to where it burns off the fat.  A common question when it comes to exercise is:  can I selectively lose weight from specific parts of the body? The answer is NO.  While you can tone up certain areas, where the fat is burned off  is really controlled by your body without any input from you.  For some of us, it comes away fairly evenly from top to bottom, with basic exercise while for others it burns away very disproportionally, which can be quite distressing.

If you fit that category, then you may need to consider working with a personal trainer who can help you focus on not only reaching your weight loss goals, but also on achieving the physical appearance that you desire.

In an article published in the Wilmington Star News, the author, Scott Perry of Real Results, Inc answers some important questions about exercise, muscle mass and weight loss.  It's worth a quick read, because it explains in fairly simple terms the relationships between all of the physical aspects going on behind the scenes in your body.

People wake up every day with the notion of losing weight, but without any clue as to how to do it and what path to take.  Most do it all wrong and end up frustrated with their efforts and soon quit.  You should approach the process with a plan based on doing research into methods, not products, for weight loss.  Before you take the first step or lift the first weight, learn everything you can about weight loss and the human body, then build a plan that fits your personality, with a firm understanding that what you start today you must be able to maintain forever.  Your weight loss is only as good as your plan, and that same plan (with evolutionary changes) it what will keep it from coming back.

Ignore the ads and the hype - focus on facts.  LEARN MORE - BURN MORE!

My website is full or weight loss resources and includes a synopsis of my plan (no products involved) which is fully detailed along with an accounting of my first five months, in my e-book.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shortcuts Are Short-Sighted

I presume that most people who exercise do so for a reason.  Losing weight, building muscle, improving health, etc.  Soooo, if you are actively pursuing a high level of physical activity in order to achieve a desired end result, why would you cut yourself short?  It's kind of like saving money to purchase a house, but turning down the opportunity to work an extra hour each day.  You may eventually reach that goal (or not) of enough dollars for a decent down payment, but its going to take a long time and at some point you might get tired of waiting for the pay out and just give up.
I witness this kind of short-sightedness on a a regular basis when it comes to running and walking - a lot of people take shortcuts - literally.  Why?  Each step you take contributes to calorie burn - maybe not very much on an individual basis, but when taken collectively it does add up.  So why would you walk a two mile course and then take a shortcut near the end that cuts off a 1/4 mile?  You might have save a couple of minutes, but you lose big time in the fitness category.  
Recently, there was a bridge closing (maintenance) on the Wrightsville Beach Loop, which is a 2 1/2 mile circular course perfect for walking and running.  I normally walk two full laps, but because of the closure that wasn't possible.  Did I shortcut my walk? Nope.  I started at my normal location, walked until I bumped into the barricades at one end of the bridge, then turned around and went in the opposite direction until I bumped into the barricades at the other end of the bridge.  Then I walked back past my starting point an equivalent distance of two bridge lengths so that my total walk was still in the five mile range.
But how many other people did that?  I was amazed at the numbers who got within sight of the bridge, then turned around.  They didn't go the full distance!  For most of them they were satisfied that they put in some kind of effort, not thinking about the fact that a reduced level of exercise had a reduced effect.  I on the other hand focus on time and distance, with my trusty pedometer providing ample evidence as to the effectiveness of my efforts.
This goes beyond bridge closings!  On any given day in any specific place that is frequented by runners and walkers, I witness people taking unwarranted shortcuts.  For example, on the Mt. Pleasant, SC side of the Ravenel bridge, people have worn a path up a grassy embankment between the parking lot sidewalk and the bridge's pedestrian walkway, even though both they link up just another 100 feet away.  You might be thinking its just the results of tourists climbing the bridge for the view, rather than exercise.  Nope, I see walkers and runners using the shortcut all the time. 
OK, so two hundred feet isn't a real big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it can be a symptom of a dangerous mindset - I'm doing this because I have to, not because I want to!  And that can lead to failure in the game of weight loss!  Your exercise routine must provide you with a high level of satisfaction and you in turn must be committed to making it happen by going the full distance each and every time.  
For sure, things happen (been there, done that) - weather, cramps, blown out shoes, blisters, tight schedules, etc. and that is legitimate stuff.  But I see a lot of people taking shortcuts out of laziness or simply a lack of commitment. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you took part in some form of exercise, you are on the right track.  However, a lackluster effort can actually work against you. If you don't consistently achieve a level of physical activity that really makes a difference, you won't be going anywhere fast.
When it comes to running and walking, more is better.  My motto is: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is The Longest Route You Can Find!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Did It Again - Beat My Old Walking Speed Record

                                                  I must be on a roll!  (Not something you technically want to happen when walking...) Just broke my walking speed record again.  Just the other day I did 5 miles in 62 minutes, and today I did the same course in 61 minutes.  I really can't tell what shaved off another minute on the time, which is actually pretty significant.  My top end speed doesn't feel any faster, so I am apparently getting up to full speed quicker. 

Is this an earth shattering moment?  For me yes, but for the rest of world - no.  It's just part of my reformed lifestyle to push the limits with my chosen form of exercise - walking.  It helps keep things fresh and interesting, which is important for staying on track.  The minute you get bored with your fitness plan, find something else quick or you may end up back on the couch.  So in addition to walking in interesting locations, I'm always trying to throw in another angle to keep myself moving and racing against myself is one of them.

Exercise doesn't have to be painful, uncomfortable, distasteful or boring - in fact it better not be - it just has to be something you can commit to and that yields some personal satisfaction in addition to the calorie burn.