Weight Management

A Look at Body Composition Analysis

bcascale

Over the years, two key indicators have measured a person’s health risk due to weight: pounds (or kilograms) and body mass index (BMI). While that still holds true today, research has determined that these factors alone do not tell the whole story. In order to accurately assess your true health risk, you need to know your body’s composition. That is, a reading of fat, muscle and water percentage will give you critical information for creating an effective strategy for safe, long-lasting weight loss.

The ultimate goal in losing weight is to know that the right type of weight is coming off, which means reducing fat and increasing or maintaining muscle mass.

So what is used to measure a body’s composition? Up until the 1990’s, the closest we could get to determine body fat percentage was through the use of calipers. Calipers work by pinching a fold of skin on various parts of the body. They may be effective in reading the fat percentage of specific body sections, but they do not provide the most accurate total body fat percentage.

Then through medical technological advancements, the DEXA scan was introduced, which is known as the gold standard of body composition measurement. The DEXA machine works by having a patient lie down motionless on a table while the scanner moves over each part of the body. After five to ten minutes, results are generated showing the detailed percentages of fat, muscle and water in the entire body as well as compartments of the body (e.g., left arm, right arm, torso). The procedure is a breakthrough in body composition analysis (BCA), but it remains generally inaccessible due to its high costs, ranging from $100 to $300 per session.

Luckily today, there is a much lower cost analysis option with measurement capabilities that are close to those of the DEXA. It comes in the form of a scale that is just like the one you see in our office, but with features that make the critical difference in measuring your health risk profile.

The BCA scale utilizes bioelectrical impedance to determine a person’s water weight, fat mass, and predicted muscle mass for the body and each major body component This non-invasive method sends a low-level electric current through the body,. Body composition is calculated from the resistance to the flow of the electrical current. Don’t let this scare you! It’s safe and you don’t feel a thing.

Body composition analysis is fast and simple. The BCA scale reads results within seconds. Regular BCA scale readings make it easy for medical providers to fine-tune your weight loss program based on how you are progressing. For instance, if you’re exercising and the traditional scale shows that you’ve gained pounds, you may feel discouraged. However, the BCA scale may show that you’ve lost body fat, an indicator that the added weight may be muscle produced from your fitness activities. This is exactly the direction you want to go! Higher muscle percentage beats higher fat percentage any day of the week.

If you haven’t measured your body composition and feel that your weight may be the source of your health issues, go ahead and make an appointment with our office. The earlier you know your body’s breakdown, the sooner you can take steps to improve your health and well-being.

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Why Losing Weight Gets Harder as You Age (And What You Can Do About It)

older-adult-fitnessThe saying “youth is wasted on the young” might just hold the most meaning when talking about weight loss. In our early years, we rarely give a second thought to the consequences of splurging on late night milkshake and fries. It may create temporary uncomfortable feelings, but we can bounce back the next day with fairly little effort. And then we do it again and again, because our young, energy-efficient bodies give us the runway to do so. How wonderful, right?!

But then life plays a cruel joke on us as we creep up in age. At first the changes are subtle. Recovery time from splurges lengthens and we notice that it’s not as easy as it used to be to shed unwanted pounds. Then before we know it, we feel stuck in a place we really don’t want to be. The weight either won’t come off (or stay off) and the cycle of discouragement sets in. Should we just surrender to the ravages of time and suffer the consequences of the natural aging process?

No! And we’ll tell you why and how.

In order to beat Father Time at his aging game, we need to take a look at the main culprits that make it harder to lose weight as we move on in years.

Muscle Loss – You may not realize it, but your body begins to lose muscle mass after the age of 30. Muscle is the body’s best calorie burner, and the more muscle your body has, the higher your metabolism will be. Losing muscle tissue lowers your metabolism, so even though you may be eating the same amount as when you were younger, you will begin to store excess calories in the form of body fat.

Calorie Needs – As you age and naturally lose muscle mass, your body requires fewer calories in order to maintain your current weight. If your calorie intake stays the same as your metabolic rate slows, and you don’t increase your physical activity, weight gain becomes unavoidable.

Stress– As we age, we often take on new life responsibilities, such as building a career, raising a family, and keeping up with mortgage payments. All of these responsibilities can create high levels of stress, which has a very real impact on health and well-being. What you may not know is that the stress you’re dealing with may be a contributor to overeating and weight gain. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is associated with fat accumulation along the midsection of the body. The more cortisol produced, the more stubborn belly fat to battle. Even more discouraging, higher cortisol levels also result in increased calorie consumption. In a British study, researchers found that people with high cortisol levels were more likely to snack in order to cope with the daily hassles in their lives than low-cortisol producers.

Now, let’s talk about how we can turn back the hands of time, at least physically:

Build Lean Muscle Mass – A proven way to build and maintain lean muscle mass is to eat greater amounts of protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein provides the building blocks for healthy muscle and generally increases satiety levels, which results in less hunger and therefore less calorie consumption. If you don’t consume the excess calories, they have no chance for your body to store them as fat.  But remember, don’t overdo it on the protein. Too much protein can backfire on you in the form of unwanted stress on your organs’ ability to successfully metabolize it. Balance it with foods with high fiber and healthy fats.

Exercise is another important tool in fighting muscle loss that comes with age. According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, after an average of 18 to 20 weeks of progressive resistance training, adults can gain over two pounds of lean muscle mass, and increase their overall strength by over 25 percent. To ensure safety and success, speak with your medical provider before starting any exercise program.

Reduce Calorie Consumption– This always sounds like a major downer, but many people confuse cutting back on calories with having to eat less. The best thing to do is choose foods that have high nutrient density. This means you can eat more, but without all the extra calories your body doesn’t need. Next time you’re at the market, choose high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to help you feel full.

Reduce Stress– The path to stress reduction might not be as clear as that for building muscle mass or cutting back on calories, but it is critical to reduce stress if you are trying to lose weight. There are actually many different proven ways to do this. One popular way is through increasing activity levels.. A simple 20-minute workout can reduce stress, clear your mind, and burn extra calories. Many people today are also enjoying the stress-busting effects of meditation. There are several different forms of meditation, so explore them to see which might suit your preferences and lifestyle. And if you are unsure about which action to take to reduce stress, at a minimum, just talk to someone. Let them know about your pressures and desire to more effectively manage them. The process of revealing your thoughts to an empathetic supporter provides stress relief on its own.!

If you can identify the specific weight loss challenges in your life, you can take the necessary actions to achieve healthy weight loss, which has the high probability of reviving some of that same energy you felt when you were younger. The end result of effective weight loss could mean that we can live with the wisdom and grace that only age can give us, but in a younger-feeling, healthier body. Now that sounds pretty wonderful to us.

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Does Your Weight Increase Your Risk of Injury?

knee_painObesity can hurt us, and not just with greater risks of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. It affects our bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, which we need for optimal mobility in our busy daily lives. When our skeletal and muscular systems are compromised, physical injuries are more likely to occur.

About one in five people suffer an injury that requires medical attention, and research shows a link between obesity and higher injury risks in adults.. According to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the odds of sustaining an injury are 48 percent greater for those who are living with obesity. Obesity may limit what a person can do physically (like climbing up a flight of stairs), making it easier to get hurt.

Let’s examine areas of the body that are more prone to injury due to increased pressure on them by excess weight.

Knee joints. Obesity can increase wear-and tear on knee joints and cause osteoarthritis (OA). When you walk across a flat surface, the force exerted on your knees is about one-and-a-half times your body weight. That means a 200-pound person puts 300 pounds worth of pressure on their knees with every step. Obese men and women are five times more likely to suffer from OA. OA can lead to torn ligaments and other serious knee injuries that may require surgery.

Back. Disc degeneration occurs naturally as you age, but excess weight may speed up the process and lead to injury. A study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that men and women suffering from disc degeneration had significantly higher body mass indexes (BMI). In some cases, pain from disc degeneration can lead to disability from work. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, can shift your center of gravity, putting more stress on your back muscles.

Where are you most likely to injure yourself? According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading cause for injury is falls in or around the home. This is likely from a lack of peripheral sensation, general physical weakness, and instability while walking or standing. According to a study from Ohio State University, individuals living with obesity were twice as likely to suffer an at home injury compared to those at healthy weights.

Obesity also presents dangers at work. An eight-year study published in PLOS ONE found that obesity increased the risk of work-related injury by 20 percent. The list of occupational injuries is staggering- broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, concussions, internal injuries, slips, trips, stumbles, falls.

Workplace injuries can also become a financial nightmare for people suffering from obesity. A study by Duke University found that medical costs for morbidly obese employees were seven times higher than for employees with recommended weights.

So what can you do to lower your risk of injury?

You guessed it- weight loss! A study published by the Journal American Medical Association found that obese men and women who participated in a diet and exercise program were able to lose 10 percent of their body weight were able to improve mobility, knee function, and quality of life. We know it’s easier said than done, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.

There are times when injuries are out of our control. But managing weight is one thing we can do to lower our risk of injury and improve our overall health. Talk to your medical provider about your weight loss options.

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Exercise or Diet: Which is More Important For Weight Loss?

diet-and-exerciseIf you are exercising regularly, but don’t see the numbers going down on the scale, you might be misguided about the best way to lose weight. Many people fall into the trap that exercise alone will make the pounds come off. The training montages in action movies, extreme weight loss programs on TV, and fitness success stories can motivate us, but they paint an unrealistic picture about the role of exercise in losing weight. How has this idea gained so much credit?

The human body contains fat mass and lean mass, which includes muscle. It’s scientifically proven that muscle is the body’s best fat burner, and that having more muscle will lead to weight loss. And how do you get more muscle? Because it is most associated with muscle development, the most popular answer is through exercise. This probably explains why it is widely accepted as a primary weight loss solution.

The truth is, it is extremely difficult to lose weight from exercise alone. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. In order to burn off that pound, you would need to bike ride for about seven hours. But wait, we haven’t even counted the calories you’re consuming from food. If you are consuming 2000 calories a day, you would we need to work out for four hours a day just to maintain the same weight. You would end up working out over 40 hours a week to lose weight, and that’s if everything is perfect.

It is much easier to cut calories out of your diet than burn them through exercise. Let’s go back to the example of the pound of fat. If you regularly eat two small bags of potato chips a day, you’re consuming about 500 calories from these snacks. If you cut this treat out for one week, the calories you save will add up to a pound of fat.

Increasing physical activity has many health benefits, but the part it plays in weight loss isn’t as large as the public may think. Let’s take a look at the role of exercise in the different stages of weight loss:

Weight Loss Beginner

You are now on the road to weight loss, and like any journey, you must choose a path. The key to losing weight is consuming fewer calories than you burn, and developing healthy eating habits is your ticket to long-term success. First you need to know how many calories you’re eating. This sounds easy enough, but more often than not we eat a lot more than we think. A study by Cornell University found that overweight people tend to underestimate the calories they are consuming by 40 percent. The best way to count calories is to record your meals in a food journal.

As a weight loss beginner, you will need to increase your knowledge of your calorie sources- proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. Each of these sources can have vastly different effects on hunger, metabolism, and regions of the brain that control food intake. Protein-rich foods will boost your metabolism and curb your appetite while sugary foods may reduce your brain’s ability to release signals of fullness, causing you to eat more. As you increase your nutrition knowledge, you will find foods that both facilitate weight loss and you enjoy eating.

Now that you’re eating healthier, you will begin to notice the number on the scale going down. Weight loss will bring about changes to your body mass composition. As you shed pounds, your ratio of lean mass to fat mass will improve. This means you will start having more muscle tissue than fat from dieting alone. And as we all know, muscle is our body’s best calorie burner!

Continuing to Lose Weight

You have lost weight and noticed differences in how you look and feel.  But after your initial weight loss, you may struggle to lose more weight and hit a plateau. As you weigh less, your body will require fewer calories or more physical activity to sustain your lower body weight. This is a time when you can start to consider exercise as part of your weight loss program. The added exercise will help build muscle and burn more calories to help break the plateau. Hitting a plateau should also encourage you to reexamine your eating habits. You may be have grown comfortable with your food plan and begun overestimating your portion sizes.

Maintaining Your Weight Loss Success

Now that you’ve reached your weight loss goal, this isn’t a time to revert to old unhealthy habits. Managing weight is a lifelong process. Exercise is a marker for long-term weight loss. In a study published in the journal Obesity, more than half of all participants that were successful at losing weight were able to keep it off through diet and exercise alone after 8 years. Find an exercise program that works for you, and keep that weight off!

Bottom line: What you consume is most important for achieving weight loss. Exercise has many health benefits but shouldn’t be viewed as a be-all end-all weight loss solution. However, as you develop your nutritional knowledge and healthy eating habits, exercise plays an important component in long term weight maintenance.

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How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

Stepping on the scale is not always easy, but weighing yourself is a necessity to track your weight loss progress. How often should you weigh yourself? It’s a common question, and one that can vary from person to person.

The Science

A study published in PLOS One found those who weigh themselves daily lose the most weight. The research was based on 2,838 weight observations from 40 individuals. Going longer than one week or one month without stepping on the scale was associated with weight gain, while the average time between checks without gaining weight was 5.8 days. During the maintenance phase of weight loss, researchers recommend weighing in weekly.

Although this study was smaller, other larger studies back up regular weigh-ins. Another study published in the journal Obesity, based on about 3,000 individuals who had lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for one year, found regular weigh-ins were associated with lower BMI and better cognitive restraint. Researchers believe monitoring weight regularly allows individuals to catch weight gain early and make behavioral changes sooner to prevent the scale from continuing to escalate.

The Takeaway

Stepping on the scale is a part of losing weight. Don’t dread it or be scared of it; embrace it as something that will get you where you want to be. Your weight tells you if your plan is working. If the number on the scale is going down, great, keep up the good work. If the number on the scale is going up, step back and evaluate where you can make improvements.

Considerations

However, particularly if you weigh yourself daily, keep in mind that weight can fluctuate throughout the day and week. A small weight gain isn’t necessarily a cause of alarm. For the most consistent measurement, weigh yourself at the same time of day, and keep in mind that the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Your body composition, which measures how much lean muscle and fat your body weight is composed of, gives you the most accurate indication of your weight loss progress.

If the thought of stepping on the scale every day gives you too much anxiety, it may not be the best plan for you. A weight loss plan isn’t set in stone. It can be adjusted at any time. If you’re seeing results by weighing yourself on a weekly basis, there is no need to change it. The most important thing is that you’re losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

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Savor Your Food: 5 Tips To Slow Down While Eating

Eat slowly, eat less. You’ve probably heard it before, but most people still eat too fast. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your body to signal that it’s full. So when you eat too quickly, you end up eating more. A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found eating slowly led to lower hunger ratings in both normal weight and overweight people. So if you have some weight to lose and feel you may be racing through your food, there is a way for you to train yourself to slow it down.

knife and fork with clock plate

Eat regularly. When you’re starving, your eyes become bigger than your stomach, and you want to scarf down whatever food is placed in front of you, regardless of its flavor. Avoid this situation by scheduling meals within four hours of each other. This way, you won’t be ravenous when you sit down to eat and are more likely to focus on your food and savor the flavors.

Sit down. Eating on the go, standing at the counter, or on your couch is a surefire way to eat too quickly. Sitting down at the table allows you to focus on the meal in front of you and keep track of how much you have eaten. It’s harder to keep track of how much you have eating when you’re getting up constantly to go to the fridge or grazing all day.

Turn off the tube. The television is a distraction. One study found viewers ate almost double when watching an action flick than those watching a talk show. Why? The action flick was more distracting. Get rid of this distraction completely by turning off the TV while you eat. You will survive 30 minutes without background noise and feel better about your weight loss progress.

Put your utensil down between each bite. If you’re having trouble slowing down, one technique that may help is putting your utensil down between each bite. This allows you to focus on the flavor while chewing your food before taking another bite, giving your brain more time to signal that your body is full.

Eat on a smaller plate. We’ve all been raised to “clean our plates.” So it should come as no surprise that we tend to finish all food in front us, regardless of how big that plate is. Try this: next time you sit down for a meal, serve yourself on a smaller plate. You’ll get that same satisfaction of finishing your food, but in reality you’ll be eating less than you usually do.

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Clean Your Pantry: 5 Foods to Toss for Good

shutterstock_258367139-300x207When boredom strikes, your pantry may be one of the first places you turn. But if your pantry is filled with high-calorie, high-fat foods, over time, the scale will tip in the wrong direction. Counter these temptations by tossing the junk food and replacing it with wholesome, nutritional snack options. It’s time to give your pantry a healthy makeover by tossing the following five foods for good!

Baked Goods: It’s time to ditch those lingering holiday treats in your pantry. The refined sugar and saturated fat won’t do your weight loss plan any favors. Keeping a stash of sweets in your cabinet will only tempt you to give into your cravings. And by now, the holiday treats won’t taste fresh, so why waste the calories?

Replace with: Dark chocolate
When your sweet tooth strikes, you don’t have to feel so guilty indulging in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids, meaning it has antioxidant properties that help protect your heart. Stick to one serving, which is about a one-inch square, for a healthier alternative to cookies and brownies.

Sugary Cereals: Breakfast is an excellent way to kick-start your day, as long as you eat healthy, energy-boosting foods. Don’t be fooled by a stamp of good health on the box. Read the food label. Some cereals have as much sugar as a candy bar. If it has more than 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (4 to 6 grams) per serving, you should steer clear.

Replace with: Oatmeal
Old-fashioned oatmeal is a five-star breakfast pick. A recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health found eating more whole grains can reduce your risk of a cardiovascular disease-related mortality by 15 percent. Spice up your oatmeal by adding fresh fruit, peanut butter, or cinnamon.

Microwave Popcorn: While popcorn is accepted as a healthier snack, most microwaveable popcorn is drenched in fat-laden butter, and some of the bags contain chemicals that can hurt your health in the long term.
Replace with: Stove-popped popcorn
Use canola oil to pop your popcorn on the stove and season with salt. If you like an extra kick, throw in some chili powder or hot sauce for a reduced-guilt snack.

Dried Fruit: Not all dried fruit is created equal. The healthier options simply drain the water, making for an excellent on-the-go snack, but others have added preservatives and sugars, making for a less healthy version of its fresh fruit counterpart. Read the nutrition label. A long list of ingredients is a red flag to throw it in the trash.

Replace with: Fresh fruit
An apple a day—you can’t go wrong with fresh fruit to keep you feeling full. Plus, you’ll never get bored with so many fiber-packed options.

Crackers: Crackers may taste good, but they are not the best complement to your favorite dip, lacking in nutritional value. Most brands have very little fiber, so you may eat more to feel satisfied.

Replace with: Fresh vegetables
Satisfy your crunchy craving with fresh vegetables. Carrots and broccoli take on the flavor of any dip and pack a powerful fiber punch!

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4 Tips For Dining Out While Losing Weight

Who would ever think that going to a restaurant could be a stressful event? But for millions of people trying to lose weight, it’s a reality. Between the tantalizing dish options and social fear of being labeled “the dull one” by friends, it takes a lot of willpower to stay on track. Or does it? There are actually a few tricks you can rely on to ensure that you don’t stray from your plan and still have a good time. 

1. Start By Getting Full.

While your dinner companions dive into the bread sticks that usually come before your meal, you can feel satisfaction in having knowledge they don’t. If you start by eating foods with a lot of fiber, like a salad or veggie appetizer, you will wind up eating less overall. Studies have shown eating a low-calorie first course enhances the feeling of fullness and lowers the total number of calories eaten during the meal. Be aware of how much dressing is used on your salad or appetizer. The recommended amount is no more than two tablespoons. To make things easy ask for the dressing in a cup on the side.

2. Stay Away From Sugary Drinks

Try to avoid beverages that contain large amounts of sugar (yes, this means you margaritas). Drinks that are high in sugar are also high in calories, and research from Harvard University found that people who drink sugary beverages do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food. Drink water or unsweetened tea and to avoid the excessive calorie consumption in drinks. If cocktails must be a part of the experience, look for a less sugary option, like wine or beer. And of course always use common sense when consuming alcohol!

3. Contol Your Pasta Portion

Eating at an Italian restaurant? If you decide to go with a pasta dish, be very aware of the portion distortion that often happens at a restaurant. The normal serving size of a cup of pasta is only 220 calories. According to research from New York University, a typical dinner portion of pasta at a restaurant can be 480 percent larger than a cup. That’s over 1,000 calories! Try sharing a plate of pasta or eating half and taking the rest home in a doggy bag. This will help you avoid eating too many calories at once and save money on the bill!

4. Make Healthy Swaps

The side dishes that come with your main course can be switched for healthier alternatives that pack a high nutritional punch without taking away from the overall meal experience. For instance, if your dish comes with white bread or rice, ask the waiter for brown rice or whole-grain bread. Swap out French fries for steamed vegetables. Just like your starter salad or vegetable appetizer, these friendly swaps will make you feel fuller faster due to their high fiber content. So don’t be afraid to ask the server questions about the options available to substitute into your meal.

The last important thing to remember about eating out is this: if you feel like you succumbed to temptation and “slipped up,” don’t beat yourself up. You have the confidence and information to know how to correct your course if you veer off path. It happens to the best of us every now and then. That’s life, so embrace every second of it!

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Health Food Imposters

hfiHave you ever thought to yourself, “Is the food I’m eating really as healthy as others claim?” Some foods are packaged to look like they’re good for you when in fact they’re anything but. For those trying to lose weight, here are some health food imposters to watch out for while grocery shopping:

Granola. Granola has long held a reputation for being healthy. It evokes an image of rosy-cheeked hikers exploring the great outdoors. In everyday life, it has become a breakfast or snack staple, as well as a popular topping for yogurt. The problem with granola is that many store-bought brands are made with sugary sweeteners, fillers, and palm and hydrogenated oils that are potentially unhealthy. Did you know a one-cup serving of a typical homemade granola could have as many as 600 calories? While granola does contain some wholesome ingredients like rolled oat, an excessive amount can turn what you thought was a healthy meal into a surplus of calories from sugar, which the body stores as fat. If you absolutely can’t part with granola, limit consumption to a quarter cup and always read the labels on granola products.

Smoothies and Fruit Juices. Fruit smoothies are all the rage. They seem to be a required accessory for anyone wearing yoga pants or spandex. But smoothies can cause trouble if the main ingredient is fruit juice. But wait…Doctors are always telling us to add more fruits to our daily diet, so how can something with fruit be unhealthy? The difference is that fruit juice lacks the fiber contained in solid fruits. Fiber makes us consume at a slower rate and feel fuller faster. Without the fiber, the liquid calories in fruit juice make it much easier to consume an excessive number of calories (some smoothies can have as many as 800 calories depending on size and ingredients). And that’s not even the worst part about fruit juice. If you look at most store-bought fruit juice nutrition labels, you’ll notice that sugar (in its various forms) and artificial flavors are front and center. Natural fruit juice is actually a small percentage of the product. So check the ingredients in that fruit smoothie first. You might also want to consider trying a vegetable-based smoothie. Vegetable-based smoothies are a healthier option and contain far fewer calories and less sugar.

Fat-Free Foods. Many products found in the supermarket come in a “fat-free” variety. For those with weight loss goals, naturally the fat-free products seem to be the most logical choice. But don’t be fooled. When the fat is removed from these foods, it is often replaced with a higher percentage of sugar and artificial fat substitutes to compensate for a loss of flavor. At the end of the day, we wind up consuming a higher number of sugar-laden empty calories with fat-free foods simply because we believe we are allowed to. We also physically feel less full with these foods, and may be unknowingly enabling a sugar addiction. When fat-free food dominated the packaged food industry in the 1990s, it did a huge disservice to the nutritional value of fats. We’ve heard it before, but it is very true. There are “good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and “bad fats” (trans fats and saturated fats) The American Heart Association recommends 30 percent of your diet come from good fats. When purchasing fat-free products, check the nutrition label to make sure that it has fewer calories than the regular version and that it isn’t packed with sugars.

Dried Fruits and Nut Mixes. Some dried fruits and nut mixes are great sources of fiber, vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats. The problem is that many store-bought versions coat the fruits with sugar and the nuts with salt. Some brands of trail mix are also packed with flavors from shredded coconut and chocolate, both high in calories. Just a handful of trail mix can easily have over 300 calories. It’s hard to stop at just a handful when the sweet/salty taste of the nuts, fruits, and other flavors complement each other so well. Choose the healthier alternative by buying unsalted nuts and unsweetened dried fruits for your snack. But be sure to watch your portions to stay within your daily calorie limit.

Diet Soda. We’ve all heard about the studies that link the consumption of soda to obesity. So it would seem a wise choice to turn to the zero-calorie, zero-sugar diet soda alternative. Right? Wrong! Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which send signals to the brain that very closely resemble that of natural sugar. That means that the brain responds to the “sweet” signal by telling the body to crave more sweet foods and drinks. But because the brain is receiving the “sweet” signal without the calories, this may cause us to actually consume an even higher number of calories to satisfy our cravings. In fact, research has shown that people who consumed diet soda versus those who did not had a 47% higher increase in BMI after eight year of consumption. There is evidence that diet soda might be useful in the short-term to wean regular soda drinkers off the sugary stuff, but it should not become an every day part of a healthy diet. If you’re looking for refreshment, good old H2O is your best bet.

Developing a curiosity for food’s health benefits will help you to avoid making choices that don’t support your health and weight loss goals. Don’t let your body suffer because of clever packaging, wording, or public misconceptions. Remember, facts are your friends! Always read the nutrition labels on packaged foods to determine if what you’re eating is the real thing or a knock-off that can set you back.

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Use Grocery Lists In Your Weight Loss Game Plan

Going grocery shopping while following a weight loss program can be a lot like playing in a football game. You’re the quarterback and you need to end the play with food selections that will help you reach your goal weight. But there’s a defensive line standing in your way in the form of aisles of tempting, unhealthy food. Without a good game plan, it will be harder to reach the goal line.

Think of your simple grocery list as part of that plan. If you call the right plays (that is, list the right types of food) before you step onto the field, you’re more likely to win the game and see weight loss results.

Research has shown links between shopping with a grocery list and improved diets with healthier weights. For example, a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that those who regularly made a grocery list before going food shopping had a healthier weight than those who didn’t make a list. The study surveyed over 1300 participants, of whom nearly 80 percent were either overweight or obese. At the end of the study period, it was the grocery list-makers who weighed an average of five pounds less than those without a list.

One of the reasons why a grocery list might support weight loss is because it may serve as a good tool to control impulse buying. Supermarkets conveniently place dessert displays at the end of the aisle and sweets by the checkout counter to tempt shoppers. A list may be able to keep you more focused, because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy before you walk in. If you just select items based on what you see walking through the aisles, you run a greater risk of putting enticing junk foods into your cart.

So the next time you need to make a trip to the supermarket, take a few minutes to huddle up with the family to create your game plan. And if you need help determining which foods belong in the plan, just talk to a weight loss medical professional who can help you sketch it out. Remember, even though you’re the quarterback, you can lean on your team for help getting to your goal. That is the end game after all.

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