Friday, December 28, 2012

Go Slow and Don't Yo-Yo! (When it comes to weight loss)

It’s the beginning of a New Year, and we all know that means tons of New Year’s resolutions, which typically revolve around losing weight, starting an exercise program, and/or trying to eliminate unhealthy habits. Too many people give up on healthy eating and exercise during December and give themselves the freedom to gain a few pounds during the holidays. Many think: “Oh I will just lose the weight in January.” While you may be the type of person that knows you will be successful at losing the weight come January, you are also probably like the majority of people that end up gaining back that weight by the following December (since you know for a fact you can lose it- you must have lost, regained, and lost before, right?). If you think a few pound weight fluctuation isn’t a big deal, think again! A new study out of Wake Forest found that post-menopausal women who lose weight and gain some (even just a mere 5 lbs!) of it back increase their risk for heart disease and diabetes.

In the study, 80 obese women lost 25 pounds on average over 5 months, which significantly improved their cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes risk factors. A year later, 2/3 of the women had regained at least 4 lbs, with most of them regaining over 17 pounds. The researchers found that for women who regained just some weight returned to their baseline level of risk factors for CVD, and specifically, diabetes risk factors got worse- and they didn’t even regain ALL the weight they initially lost! Daniel Beavers, one of the researchers for the study stated:

Women who regained 4.4 pounds or more in the year following the weight-loss intervention had several worsened cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors [. . .] What was striking about the women who regained weight was that although they did not return to their full baseline weight on average -- women only regained about 70 percent of lost weight -- several chronic disease risk factors were right back at baseline values and in some cases, particularly for the diabetic risk factors, slightly worse than baseline values [. . .] Meanwhile, women who maintained their weight loss a year later managed to preserve most of the benefits.

So, the message is clear: if you are going to lose weight, you better be 100% motivated to stick with that lifestyle forever. You need to change your eating and exercise habits to keep the weight off for good, or you may end up just hurting yourself in the end (by getting diabetes or having a heart attack!). There are even studies showing that when people lose and regain, more of that weight gained back is fat as compared to the baseline level.This is yet more proof why diets don’t work!

My recommendation: Vow never to give yourself permission to gain weight or to go on “a diet” again. You must be committed to following a healthy lifestyle and keeping the weight off for good. Try to maintain your weight during holidays and vacations, and do not lose weight if you are not 100% devoted to keeping it off. If you think rationally, it just doesn’t make sense that it would be okay to overindulge and be sedentary for a period of time, then soon after to go on a strict diet and exercise regime. Extremes are never healthy, so practice “everything in moderation” and ask yourself whether you are really motivated to change your lifestyle FOR GOOD!


Daniel Beavers, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of biostatistics, Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Gregg Fonarow, M.D., spokesman, American Heart Association, and professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator, Center for Cancer Care, Griffin Hospital, Derby, Conn.; Dec. 13, 2012,Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, online

Reinberg, Stephen. "Yo-Yo Dieting Can Hurt the Heart, Study Finds." Yo-Yo Dieting Can Hurt the Heart, Study Finds. HealthDay, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Choose your Holiday Cocktails Wisely!

One thing about the holidays is that there are countless parties and family gatherings. Besides tacking on extra calories from mindlessly eating, alcohol can contribute hundreds of barely noticeable calories. Below I list the average calorie content of the average drink. Take a look at the booze you like to choose, and then also notice the serving size. Now think about how much (compared to the serving size) and how many you may consume at a party… then do the calorie math. You could tack on 500+ calories to that 1200 calorie appetizer, dinner & dessert depending on how much of a boozehound you are.


If you don’t drink alcohol: that is fantastic and your liver thanks you! Be sure to drink non-caloric items such as water, unsweetened iced tea, club soda, or diet soda.
 If you do drink alcohol: I recommend drinking water WITH each drink and IN BETWEEN each drink (hydration is key to preventing hangovers… and important to decrease calorie consumption). Stick with light beers, use non-caloric mixers like Diet Coke or club soda (tonic has calories!!!), and AVOID holiday punches and especially egg nog (see nutritional info above!!!).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Good News! Most Kids Outgrow Food Allergies

Picture Source: Food Allergy Foundation

Many children nowadays have very limited diets due to their food allergies. It is a challenge for even a dietitian to get in all the nutrients when working with someone who is allergic to soy, milk, and wheat. However, there is hope! It is estimated that 85% of children who are allergic to milk and eggs will outgrow that, and most allergic to soy and wheat will outgrow that by 10 years of age, many by 5 years. Peanuts are less common to outgrow, with only about 20% of those kids being able to safely consume peanuts later in life. Only about 9% of children with tree-nut allergies ever outgrow them.

Instead of just assuming that your child will always be allergic to a food or foods and never allowing them to consume them, have them re-tested with the IgE antibody test, especially if they haven’t had any reactions recently. If your child shows up as no longer allergic it will make their life (and yours!) much easier and more enjoyable. There are many health benefits in all the major allergens (soy, wheat, tree-nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, peanuts), so it is a shame to unnecessarily avoid a food if a child (or even adult) has outgrown it. 

On a similar note, many of my clients have recently invested in “food intolerance” panel testing, and find that they are intolerant to dozens of foods (gluten, oats, buckwheat, soy, milk, most fruit, eggs, many vegetables, garlic, onions, etc). At that point, it is important to speak with a doctor about whether you are actually having any negative reactions to eating that food and if avoiding it is completely necessary. If you just go by what the "intolerance panel" shows you possibly intolerant to, you could be risking malnutrition. Try eating a healthy diet that eliminates most grains, fruits, veggies, and dairy- it cannot be done! I do always encourage my clients to try going at least 2 weeks without a food that they think is the source of a problem. For example, if a client thinks dairy is causing them stomach problems, I have them go on a dairy-free diet for 2 weeks. If nothing improves, bring back dairy, because that most likely isn't the culprit.

References: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology;  The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network

Friday, December 7, 2012

Suppress Your Appetite With Exercise!

For years, researchers have known that hard exercise suppresses appetite, known as “exercise-induced anorexia” (anorexia= lack of appetite). You may recall this after running sprints or after a killer plyometric training session. Many runners know that they are not very hungry for hours after a race if they ran it at maximal intensity. A recent study showed that those who did aerobic training for 12 weeks had a higher perceived fullness after both fasting and eating compared to those that did resistance training for the same time duration. So, in addition to torching calories during an intense aerobic exercise, your body triggers changes in the hunger hormones which can potentially cause you to eat less afterwards. Just weight lifting and other forms of resistance training didn’t seem to have the same benefit in this study, although resistance training is VERY important for boosting your metabolism (by adding muscle), preventing osteoporosis, and keeping you strong as you age. Another study out of BYU showed that women who walked vigorously on the treadmill for 45 minutes in the morning had less interest in food than on days they didn’t.

My recommendation:  In addition to burning lots of calories, aerobic exercise such as spin, plyometrics classes, and running have the added benefit of decreasing your appetite afterwards. The problem lies in the fact that you may be less hungry than you are normally, but you still probably eat (which is important to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles). Most people have a skewed estimate of how many calories they actually burn during exercise, and may tend to overcompensate and eat more calories after a workout than they actually burned- which is why most of us who exercise are not losing weight. Just know that when an exercise instructor tells a class they are burning "600 calories/hour!" that may not necessarily be for you... especially if you are a small woman (you might only be burning 300). Calorie burn depends on your size, muscle mass, and the effort you put in. If you want the most bang-for-your buck, make sure you incorporate interval training into your workout routine regularly to burn calories, reduce abdominal fat, and get the most benefit out of the appetite-suppression. I recommend investing in a heart-rate monitor (X-mas present request???) to give you a better idea of how hard you are actually working and to give you a better estimate of how many calories YOU are actually burning.

Beneficial effects of 12 weeks of aerobic compared with resistance exercise training on perceived appetite in previously sedentary overweight and obese men. Kym J. Guelfi, Cheyne E. Donges, Rob Duffield