Wellness: Want to Lose Weight

26 Jul

…and Eat Healthier for the New Year? Here’s Tips on How to Increase Your Chances of Success

Happy New Year from the entire WorkSaver Staff!

It is well known that most people enter a new year with good intentions to carry out resolutions to improve their health but too often end within a few weeks end up failing miserably. Changing old habits is not an easy task at all. So here are a few suggestions to help you reach your goals for the new year.

First step, do not make goals so big or unrealistic that they almost guarantee failure. Break large goals down into smaller achievable goals. For example, if your overall goal for 2017 is to lose 50 pounds, realize what such a large amount of weight loss really requires in terms of calories.

To put weight loss in perspective, realize that you have to burn about 3,500 calories more than you take in from your diet just to lose one pound (1 lb) of weight. This may sound formidable, but a reasonable way to lose weight is to try to reduce calories 250-500 per day by modifying your diet and increasing your daily exercise level. This will result on average 1 – 1.5 lbs of weight loss per week. Therefore, a more realistic goal would be to aim to lose 5 lbs in 5 weeks. Once that more realistic goal is accomplished, then start on the next goal of losing another 5 lbs over the following 5 weeks.

Also, remember that losing weight should mean losing extra fat, not muscle! If you are working out while dieting and building muscle, realize muscle is heavier than fat. Therefore, if strengthening muscle while on a diet, a long-term goal of losing 50 lbs may not actually be realistic as you will gain muscle weight while hopefully losing fat weight at the same time. Thus, the tradeoff may be that you will end up losing 40 lbs and looking better with good muscle mass, tone and definition than if you had simply lost 50 lbs of fat and muscle. Losing muscle, the major calorie burner of your body, is unhealthy and adversely affects your metabolism.

In many cases I like to recommend that a person who is serious about losing substantial weight (e.g., more than 10-20 lbs) in a healthy manner should consult a medical doctor or physical therapist and a nutritionist. Getting proper guidance on healthy nutrition and exercise along with an accurate body fat assessment is a smart approach to formulating a highly effective and healthy weight loss program.

A baseline body fat measurement will determine how much excessive fat, rather than muscle, needs to be reduced. This will provide a means to monitor and accurately assess the effectiveness of your diet and exercise programs by repeated measures of body fat loss during dieting and exercise.

Remember, you want the type of weight loss that is healthy. It’s not just about the bathroom scale reading. Losing extra fat, rather than muscle, will positively affect hormones that improve diet regulation (e.g., leptin) and improve insulin sensitivity (e.g., adiponectin). Losing muscle while dieting may help you obtain your total overall weight loss faster but at what cost? Besides the loss of strength and joint protection offered by muscle, the loss of muscle will actually lower your metabolism. Consequently, with a lowered metabolism you will experience a rebound effect and gain weight faster as soon as you go off your diet. This is the primary reason for failures of most diets, commonly known as the yo-yo diet syndrome.

Other tips you may consider for the new year include making measurable goals, not abstracts ones. Instead of vowing to “eat healthy this year”, set a goal such as eating 2 servings of fruit per day, or having kale once a week. Instead of “planning to exercise”, set a goal of running for 15 minutes on Saturday morning.

Also, change your environment to reduce temptations. For example, either keep junk foods out of the house or out of sight. For example, store all junk foods in your house on the highest cupboard in your pantry or in the darkest recess of your fridge. As a consultant, I had an offshore drilling rig move all their 24/7 dessert open table displays for the workers to a closed-door cabinet that had a sign on its door marked “desserts”. I replaced the desserts on the open table display with vegetables and fruits. This simple step cut down the intake of desserts by almost 50% and increased the intake of fruits and vegetables! At home, instead of candy and cookies, keep fresh pre-washed fruit readily available on the kitchen counter or near your family room couch.

Recommended Healthy Foods to Eat in 2017

  1. Plain yogurt. Eating plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt will reduce your sugar intake by half. Additionally, you’ll avoid all sorts of unnecessary ingredients used to suspend and preserve the fruit inside the yogurt.
  2. Berries. Fresh or frozen. Berries are rich in antioxidants. Add them to salads, smoothies, and yogurt. Blueberries are some of the healthiest berries to add to your diet.
  3. Nuts. The perfect snack. Buy them in the bulk section, unsalted. Mix them up. Place in a Ziploc bag and keep in your backpack, purse, office drawer, glove compartment, and anywhere you may get the munchies. Cashews, almonds or walnuts are good examples. When possible, buy organic, non-GMO, and make sure they are not processed with preservatives. Nuts are energizing snacks full of healthy fats and high in protein.
  4. Avocados. With more potassium than a banana, and the highest protein content of any fruit, avocados are a nutrition powerhouse. There’s no need to fear the fats in avocado, as they are mostly the healthy, unsaturated fats. Add a few slices of avocado to your sandwich instead of mayo, use it in salads to reduce the need for oil, or add it to smoothies for an extra creamy flavor.
  5. Peanut Butter. Goes well with so many dishes beyond the classic sandwich. Have a jar available at the office for a very satisfying snack, for example together with apple slices. Choose peanut butter made with just one ingredient: peanuts.
  6. Hummus. Full of heart healthy fats, high in protein and very satisfying, hummus has finally made it into American mainstream. Available in multiple flavors, hummus is made from garbanzo beans that are a good source of fiber.
  7. Cauliflower. Not my personal favorite but this cruciferous vegetable is making a comeback after years of hiding in the shadow of broccoli and kale. When cooked and soft, it can replace potatoes or rice as a side dish with just a fraction of the carbs.
  8. Home-made granola. It takes no more than 5 minutes preparation and 60 minutes in the oven to make your own batch. If you do, I promise you will never go back to store bought.

Lastly, keep a food diary (Resource: )

Of all of the behaviors a person might adopt to help them with weight management, perhaps none is more powerful than keeping a food diary. Unfortunately, to date, food diaries have proven themselves to be both misunderstood and misused. Here then are the top 10 whys and hows of keeping one and staying sane.

    1. Food diaries are about guidance, not judgment. A food diary isn’t meant to tell you if you’re been good or bad, what foods you’re allowed, or how much room is left for dinner. A food diary is there to help guide your next dietary decision, not to make it by providing you with the information you need to make your dietary decisions informed ones.
    2. Food diaries offer protection against hidden calories. Calories aren’t intuitive. Meaning you can’t see them, smell them, or taste them. By tracking them you may discover that some meals or foods you love contain far more (and even sometimes less) calories than they’re worth which in turn might lead you to change their frequencies in your dietary rotation.
    3. Food diaries burn more calories than exercise – sort of. It’s far easier to not eat calories than it is to burn them. Figure it takes most people nearly an hour of vigorous exercise to burn 500 calories. Those same folks can likely find, trim and remove 500 daily calories from their diets by keeping a food diary – an effort that will take 5 minutes at most.
    4. Food diaries will double your weight loss. Or perhaps even triple it if you’re great at it. Studies on food diarizing demonstrate that those who keep them lose twice as much as those who don’t. Of course those studies’ results lumped everyone together and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn those who kept the most complete and accurate food diaries lost even more comparative weight.
    5. Food diaries must be complete to be useful, and the best way to ensure they are is to record your choices as you eat them. Studies on people trying to “recall” what they’ve had reveal that most of us forget – portions, choices or both – and yet none of us think we’ve forgotten anything (as that’s the very definition of forgetting). The app, Fooducate , makes record keeping easy.
    6. Food diaries also must be accurate to be useful. The fact is, our eyes aren’t very good at weighing and measuring. Invest in some kitchen measures (spoons, cups, a digital scale) and use them, but remember that they’re there to tell you how much you decided to have, not how much you’re allowed – don’t let yourself get pushed around by a cup.
    7. Food diaries are great tools for investigation. If you’re trying to determine whether or not you have specific food intolerances, or why some days you’re ravenous and others not, using the note section in your tracker can allow you to identify dietary patterns and choices that in turn matter to your health, well-being and dietary control.
    8. Food diaries can replace your frustrating scale. The fact is, a scale is also a food diary – just a bad one, as it not only tracks calorie balance, but also measures constipation, clothing, and water retention. At the end of the day, if you keep a careful food diary, and your calories are where you think they should be, you won’t need a scale to know how you’re doing.
    9. Food diaries serve as a shield against “Mindless Eating” – the strange but true phenomenon that has been proven to lead people to put more food on larger plates, pour more cereal from bigger boxes, and eat more of a product with a healthy sounding claim or label. While a large plate or box might fool your eyes, they can’t fool your diary.
    10. Food diaries are what make habits form in that every single time you use your food diary you’ll be reminding yourself of all of those things you’re trying to change, and repeated conscious reminders are the building materials required for the formation of new habits.

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