Actually, there are three weight loss bullets-food documentation, limiting restaurant food, and regular eating. Dietitians have been aware of this information for decades, and a new study out this month supports these tried and true tactics for successful weight loss.
Here are my thoughts on the subject:
- Food documentation: Food documentation can happen on a smart phone with numerous apps, desktop computer, or iPad. I have clients who also mix it up a bit and even revert back to an old-fashioned small notebook and pen which is easy to carry around. It does not matter how you document, because the fact that you document your food means you are not shoving food into your mouth without paying attention. You cannot “run and hide” from your calorie consumption, and the sheer act of “facing” those calories gives you a winning edge on successful weight loss because pretending you did not eat those calories is accomplishing nothing!
- Limit Restaurant Food: Chances are pretty good that the meal you ate out for lunch or dinner contained many more calories than had you eaten at home. Making a conscious choice to dine at home rather than away from home will increase the likelihood you will succeed at weight loss. Those that think otherwise are either in denial about the calorie content of standard restaurant cuisine or uninformed. Remember the greasy bun you did not expect to come with your overly large burger or the really large serving of fries you probably would not have eaten at home? And, the cocktail and desserts typically not available at home but that you consumed while dining out are not helping your waistline either. Try as you may, it is an extreme challenge to constantly dine out and manage your weight. It is the first lifestyle change I recommend with new weight loss clients!
- Eat Regularly: Even a hungry dietitian can walk into the kitchen and want to eat everything in sight if she or he went too long without eating! Eating on a regular schedule keeps your blood sugar up and your hunger down. Going for very long periods between meals and snacks paves the way for a binge. Intentional stockpiling of calories to save for later in the day usually backfires as well. You will, in all likelihood, be so ravenous your guard will be down and you will overdo those calories and do so in a hurry as soon as you can eat.
No one ever said losing weight was easy. But facing your eating and lifestyle behavior are half the battle in this process. Being accountable, calorie savvy, and nourishing yourself on a timely basis will help make the weight loss process happen.
What tools do you use?
Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker
If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, and are vowing to get back to a healthy diet this week, consider using some tech tools to help with weight loss. With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity. Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your energy consumption, and keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis. If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow take in less energy than your body needs, or use more energy than you consume through food. To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week, doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise! While crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence, being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.
Here are some of my favorite techie strategies for weight loss:
- Use the Internet for Nutrition Information– If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating through food consumed away from home. While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are. This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s. With some foresight and planning, you can access each restaurant website prior to eating there, and arm yourself with an effective eating strategy.
- Online Food Documentation– Nutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met. Goals may revolve around not only calories, but also other specific nutrients such as carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose, and it’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.
- Using Smartphones for Food Related Decisions– At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market and more become available daily. Some can be used to track food on the spot, some to track your physical activity like a pedometer, and some can help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.
- A Pedometer-While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity. Some of the slightly more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer through a USB port and cable. This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer or shared with your dietitian.
- BodyMedia Armband– This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management. Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period. It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day. This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at using energy and therefore facilitating weight loss. Another perk, it assesses your sleep quality which has been noted as being important in the weight loss process.
With the help of these technology driven self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be both consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals efficiently and effortlessly!
Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?
Many of us view weight loss and diet as a matter of willpower. We think, “If only I am strong enough and determined, if only I exercise self-control with my diet and exercise, I will be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle and weight.” Such thinking can be mighty self-limiting, however. It converts a positive decision- to be healthy- into another reason to feel guilty if willpower isn’t enough.
For this reason, if you are my client, I advocate a different approach. Namely, I believe that willpower is a self-defeating concept when it comes to losing weight or maintaining weight loss. Instead, I counsel my patients to control their eating environments. By sustaining a “healthy” eating environment, you can also assist in improving your own health and weight. Such an environment means limiting the high calorie and fat foods in your home, so that you are not tempted to succumb to their temptation, which in turn makes willpower at home irrelevant.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on creating a healthy environment:
- Toss your leftover holiday goodies. If you have trouble pitching them, give them to a skinny friend or bring them to your office. A moment on your lips can result in months on your hips, as the saying goes. Evaluate if it is worth the momentary gratification.
- Be smart when you do your grocery shopping. Avoid putting high temptation foods in your cart in the first place. Self-control only needs to happen at the grocery store.
- While avoiding poor food choices, do stock up on lots of health enhancing foods at the grocery store. These healthy foods are your “tools” for successful weight loss. If you are concerned about fresh foods perishing, remember, frozen foods are just as nutrient dense as their fresh counterparts!
- If you must have some treat-like foods in the house, make sure they are not loaded with calories and fat. There are many desserts available that are pre-packaged and under 150 calories. These lower calorie treats can be great for curbing our sweet tooth.
- If others in your household just have to have certain high calorie treats in the house, tell them to make them unavailable to you.
- Lastly, keep undesirable foods off your counter, in hard to reach places, and out of your line of vision if they must be in your household. Make these food items hard work to get to.
While there are always other eating and dining obstacles to be faced while trying to lose weight and keep ourselves healthy, take a step in the right direction by reducing your reliance on willpower and making your home a healthy eating environment!