Weight Management

My background, like I said, is in wellness, with an emphasis in nutrition.  No I am not a dietitian, but I do have the foundation that has allowed me to work with both adults and children to help them understand the key components to obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight while living in a country that focuses less on food quality, and more on food convenience and quantity.  This blog not only allows me to share my passion in the kitchen, but I am hoping it will allow me to share another passion of mine...helping others understand and enjoy food as you strive to obtain and/or maintain a healthy weight, by sharing what I have found successful from my career experiences.

First things first...do you want to lose weight?  This is a question you really want to think about before you answer, because if the answer is “no”, “maybe”, or “I think so” then you are not ready and you will more than likely frustrate yourself and not lose weight.  But if the answer is yes then you are ready to go.

Prepare for Changes
You have to have a plan.  If you want to be successful with weight management, you are going to need to make some lifestyle changes.  No, this does not mean a diet.  Diets don't work, and they are usually complicated.  You need to find healthy foods you enjoy, because if you are not enjoying what you are eating then you won't eat it; and if what you are doing is too complicated, you won't stick with it.  Change doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't come easy.  Therefore, you will need to prepare.
·      Tell close family, friends, and co-workers that you are serious and need their support because you can't do this alone.
·      Create a supportive environment.  Yes, this means getting rid of the junk food in your house, in your car, and in your work drawer.  If it isn’t available, you can’t eat it!  I do not carry cash, because if I carry cash I am more likely to get a snack at work that is less healthy than a snack I have with me. 
·      Get all the tools to keep you on track for reaching your goals.  This may mean purchasing, for example, a lunch box, a journal, some reusable grocery bags, smaller plates (yes this does work), and/or a water bottle.
·      Do the prep work!  Recognize what you are doing currently and set goals for what you should be doing to be successful.
·      Be ready to fall off the wagon and get back on!  It will happen…you will be at work one day and someone will bring in cupcakes (don’t know who would do that-ha!) and you will eat one…instead of saying the heck with today and throwing it out the window, eat a cupcake and move on with your planned day.  Better yet, cut out some calories in the meal before or after the treat.

Keep records
Research shows that those who keep records lose 50% more weight.  Not only does this allow you to see what you are actually eating, but it also will help to hold you accountable.  Therefore, get a journal, or just some scrap paper, and start recording.
·      Write down everything you eat for one week.   This will give you something to look at and see where to start to make changes.
·      Understand how much energy (calories) you should be consuming to maintain your weight.  (Go to www.umm.edu/heart/caloric.htm for an easy estimate or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris-Benedict_equation if you want to get into the math).  Then figure out how much you should consume to lose weight.  If you take in less calories than you need you will lose weight.  Healthy weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds a week.  There are 3500 calories in 1 pound of fat, so to lose 1 pound a week, you should eat 500 calories less a day (or work off 500 calories with exercise).  Yes weight goes on faster than it comes off.  But remember…you can actually eat too little, which will hurt your efforts.  In fact, it is recommended that you do not eat less than 1200 calories if you are a female or 1800 if you are a male.  Don't be afraid of food, just be smart with it.
·      Count calories, but keep it simple.  Sure it is more time in the beginning but after you get the hang of it, you will breeze through it.  Remember, it is all an estimate, so you just need to be close (ex: a fruit is 50 to 100 calories).  Use food labels and online tools to help you out at first.  If in doubt, overestimate your intake.  This also makes you eat foods you know the calories of, which will make you prepare more of your food and eat foods in their natural state more often.  At the end of each week, review your intake and weigh yourself.  You can then better assess what went wrong or what went right to continue onto the next week.

Plan your day
Unfortunately we tend to think of our day the opposite of what it should be for weight management.  In our society, dinner is usually the largest meal, when in actuality; we should be eating the majority of our calories in the first half of the day when we are most active. 
·      Take your calorie intake goal for each day and divide it up into meals and snacks. Your goal is to never be starving and never be full.  Put yourself on a hunger scale from 1 to 10 and try to stay between a 3 and a 7. Try to eat about every three hours, and try not to eat within 3 hours before bedtime. If you are a tiny bit hungry when you go to bed, you should smile as you fall asleep because you are on the right track. Think of your body like a fire…you have to fuel the fire (with “healthy” wood), and you don’t want to load on the wood all at once (overeat) or let the fire die (skip meals).
·      Make breakfast your biggest meal.  You might not eat breakfast right now, so you may have to force yourself to start this and start out small (a few bites), but eventually you will get there.  You should be hungry when you wake up.   
·      Plan ahead...have a couple healthy snacks with you throughout the day, and pack your lunch.  No, packin your lunch is not just for kids.  Take the guess work out of it all…if you have already planned what you are going to eat and packed it, you won’t have to make decisions during the day.

Eat simple food and moderation
It is important that you start to prepare things at home and limit eating out, because let’s face it; you really don’t know how your food is prepared when you don’t make it.
  • If you start to prepare/cook at home, and like leftovers, you will find that you can eat a healthy meal for less money and faster than you can stop to get something.  Cooking doesn't have to be a big production, remember keep it simple.
  • There is no such thing as a “cheat day”…it is called everyday life.  This is why diets don’t work, because with a diet you are telling yourself you can’t eat certain foods.  You will just set yourself up for failure if you deprive yourself, so eat those foods in moderation.  Eat those foods that you were consider a "treat" on special days...and seriously, there is not a special occassion every week. 
  • You know when you eat something you think you shouldn't...that means it is unhealthy.  We all have a general idea of what is healthy and what is not, so be honest with yourself.
  • You will start to train yourself to enjoy the flavors of food without all the additives and unhealthy fats.  We have lost the ability to taste food in its simplist form because of all the additives used today.  Like your weight management strategies, keep your food simple. 
  • There is a reason the government and health agencies recommend 5 fruits and veggies a day.  They will keep you satisfied.  Make veggies the majority of your dinner plate.  And if you must, use smaller plates.  Portion control is a huge must!
Understand why you are eating
This is a huge part of understanding weight management.  Your body is a funny thing and can actually play tricks on the way you think, which affects the way you eat.  Ever wonder why you can open a bag of chips and eat the whole thing no problem?  That is because processed foods tell your mind you are not satisfied, and therefore you continue to eat even though you are not really hungry.  The same part of your brain that tells you when you are hungry also tells you when you are lacking in other areas.  So maybe you haven’t gotten enough sleep, or enough water, or you are sexually frustrated…you may mistake these for hunger and start eating.  The trick is to recognize the reasons you are eating and right them down in your record keeping.  You will also start to make other healthy lifestyle changes in other areas of your life that will help you with your efforts.

Get off your butt
Get up and get moving.  If nothing else, walk.  It will help your health in more areas than one.  Walk fast enough to get your heart rate up, but slow enough so you can still talk.  For weight loss, 60 minutes is ideal.  If you can’t get it all in at once, break it up into two sessions.  If this is too much at first, just start with 10 minutes and build up.  A healthy intake of food is great and you may see results, but getting off your butt will make your nutrition efforts go that much farther.  Also remember, the more you burn, the more you can eat.  These calories you are burning are not calculated in your daily calorie goals yet.

Remember, no two people will find the same thing works for them (also why diets don't work), so these are just some ideas to get you started.  Also, if you have a medical condition that affects your diet or exercise habits, you will want to seek the advice of your physician.  It isn't a bad idea, in fact, to get a physical before starting your efforts.