Most dieters want to lose weight quickly. The problem is that plan tends to backfire. You can lose weight fast or lose weight forever—but not lose weight fast and forever. Most dieters regain about two-thirds of their weight loss within a year and all of it within 3 to 5years.
If you have lost weight quickly, your body will fight for food as a response to having been starved. You’ll have to white-knuckle the situation for as long as you can (but you’ll unlikely win the war against extreme hunger).
If you have lost weight slowly, here are some tips to help you maintain that loss of undesired body fat:
--eat fewer fatty foods
--watch less TV
--have strong social support
--sleep more than 5 hours a day.
Chewing gum can help lean people consume fewer calories, but that is not the case for obese gum-chewers. (Perhaps the act of chewing increases their desire to eat?)
To stay on track, successful dieters should plan ahead by predicting everything that could possibly go wrong with their eating plan and develop strategies to deal with the unexpected. For example, if the waiter serves the salad soaked with dressing (the dressing is not served on the side, as requested), the dieter knows he or she can
“I’m hungry all the time,” my clients commonly complain. They just don’t understand why they are hungry all the time, even after having eaten meals. Is this a personality quirk? Are their bodies different from everyone else’s?
The answer is plain and simple. Hunger is a request for fuel. If we did not get hungry, we would waste away to nothing. These active people feel hungry all the time because their bodies ARE hungry. They have not eaten enough food to accommodate their needs.
To live hungry is abusive … Would you withhold food from a crying (hungry) baby? No. That would be called child abuse. Please, do not abuse your body by withholding food from yourself and living hungry all day.
“But if I eat more, I’ll get fat…” is the common fearful response to my suggestion to enjoy double portions at breakfast and lunch. These hungry athletes fail to understand they are more likely to “get fat” from skimping at breakfast and lunch, because they will later undoubtedly succumb to too much dinner or evening snacking. Excess evening calories are indeed fattening.
You will be better able to manage your weight if you fuel adequately by day, and feel fed and satiated. You can then lose weight at the end of the day by chipping off 100 to 300 calories from dinner and evening snacks. How about this for your motto today: “Fuel by day; diet by night”?
Eat wisely and feel great,
For more information on how to abate hunger, lose weight and maintain energy to exercise, read Chapters 15 and 16 in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
For personalized advice, consult with a sports dietitian. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org and can help you find a local expert.
Happy Day-After-Valentine’s-Day! Or maybe it’s not so happy if your sweetie gave you a chocolate-filled heart and you are staring at it, trying to “stay away” from the yummy treats. Do you eat them all today to “get rid of them”? Or can you enjoy one every day for the next few weeks?
If you are like too many of my clients, you believe you cannot eat just one chocolate. As one marathoner reported “I am addicted to chocolate... I ate the whole candy-filled heart in two hours.”
I beg to differ with her. I doubt if she is “addicted” to chocolate. My hunch is, she doesn’t give herself permission to eat chocolate very often. Hence, when chocolate crosses her path, this becomes her “last chance” to eat the stuff. You know “I’d better it all now to get rid of it, because I can never ever eat chocolate again. It’s a “bad” food…”
When a food has power over you, you need to eat it more often, not stay away from it. How about a little (preferably dark) chocolate every day with lunch? With time, you’ll get tired of the stuff. And remember, chocolate is not a “bad” food. Actually, it is quite delicious! The trick is to learn how to eat it in moderation.
Many morning exercisers believe they should exercise on empty, so that they will burn more fat. While that may be true, burning fat differs from losing body fat. Losing body fat depends on your calorie intake for the entire day. That is, you can do a fat-burning workout in the morning but then erase that calorie deficit with a big scone and a latte, followed by generous meals the rest of the day. (You know, the hearty meals you “deserve to eat” because you had a hard workout earlier in the day…)
The benefits of eating before a morning workout include:
-You’ll have a better workout.
-You’ll feel more alert and have energy to enjoy the workout.
-You’ll provide your muscles with the fuel it needs to optimize performance.
-You’ll be able to train harder and get more from your efforts.
-You’ll help curb the hungry horrors after the workout.
If you want to lose body fat, I suggest you plan to do that when you are sleeping, not exercising! (Sleep, after all, is a fat burning activity--if you still thank that burning fat equates to losing body fat.) Your better bet is to fuel by day, have energy to enjoy an active lifestyle, and then diet (eat a little bit less) at night. Give it a try?
For more information on how to lose weight and maintain energy for exercise, take a look at the weight loss section in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook. The information will give a kick-start to your New Year’s Nutrition Resolutions.
“What should I do to jump-start my diet?” my client earnestly inquired. She was ready to get back on track after having gained three pounds over the holidays and was eager to lose that weight plus seven more “quick loss” pounds to get to her "happy weight.”
“Don’t bother jump starting your diet!” I responded. Here’s why:
Dieters who lose weight quickly by severely restricting their calories inevitably regain the weight, if not more. That's because the body overcompensates for extreme dieting (extreme hunger) with overeating. Just as you will gasp for air after having been trapped under water without oxygen, you will devour food after having been denied calories during a crash diet.
Hunger is physiological. Just as your body needs air to breathe, your body also needs fuel to function. Extreme hunger is simply an urgent request for fuel. Crash diets lead to binge eating (also called “blowing your diet”). This overeating has little to do with your "having no willpower" and lots to do with the physiology of hunger.
Yes, you can white-knuckle yourself to stick to your crash diet, but your well-meaning plan to quickly shed some pounds has a high likelihood of exploding into a demoralizing pattern of yoyo dieting. You’ll inevitably end up gaining more weight than you lose. Don't go there.... it’s depressing.
More than 10,000 members of the American Dietetic Association recently convened in Boston for their annual meeting. A highlight was “The Great Fat Debate.” While most of us left the debate more confused that when we entered, some of the key points were:
• In terms of body weight, we need to pay attention to total calorie intake, and not grams of fat. That is, “eat fat and get fat” is not true. The true statement is, “eat excess calories and get fat.”
• Pay attention to the kind of fat you eat, and choose more fish and plant fats, such as in salmon, nuts, peanut butter (and other nut butters), olive oil, and avocado. These poly- and mono-unsaturated fats are beneficial to our health. Dip your bread in olive oil, instead of spreading it with butter!
• “Low fat” foods (such as fat-free frozen yogurt and lowfat cookies, muffins and other baked goods) can a negative impact on American’s health because they are often high in sugar and refined carbs. People tend to fantasize that lowfat means low calorie, and low calorie means you can eat as much as you want!!!!! Not true. Calories count.
The bottom line:
Limit your intake of fats that are hard at room temperature (butter, beef fat, shortening used in baked goods) and choose more of the fats that are soft or liquid at room temperature: olive and canola oil, fish-fat, avocado.
Athletes of all sports and abilities commonly ask me what they should eat before, during and after a competitive event:
When should I eat the pregame meal: 2, 3 or 4 hours beforehand?
How many gels should I take during a marathon?
What’s best to eat for recovery after a soccer game?
The same athletes who worry about event-day fueling often neglect their day to day training diet. Hence, the real question should be: “What should I eat before, during and after I train?” After all, you can only compete at your best if you can train at your best.
As you prepare for each workout, remember you should be training your intestinal tract as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. To get the most out of each workout, you need to practice your pre-, during- and post-event fueling as well as your sports skills. Then, come day of the competition, you know exactly what, when and how much to eat so you can compete with optimal energy and without fear of bonking nor intestinal distress.
For help with personalized advice on optimizing your training diet, find a local sports dietitian by using the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. (SCAN is the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition Dietary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association.) Alternatively, many active people have found my Sports Nutrition Guidebook to be very helpful.
Fuel wisely and enjoy training faster, stronger and longer.
“I just have to get rid of this weight quickly. I can’t stand this uncomfortable stuff around my middle” she complained with disgust while grabbing the flesh at her waist. “I know everyone says to lose weight slowly, but that just won’t work for me... “
My client was clearly uncomfortable with her body and eager to transform her physique. Unfortunately, she failed to recognize that quick weight loss offers only short-term benefits. Quick weight loss inevitably results in long-term fat gain because of the physiology of starvation. That is, when you drastically reduce your food intake, your body’s physiology wants to binge eat to quickly regain all the weight you lost (and likely even more pounds).
As a human, your body requires fuel. The body perceives a strict diet as a famine. When the opportunity to stop the famine presents itself, the drive to eat becomes overwhelming. This overeating has little to do with “will power” and lots of do with the physiological response to extreme hunger. It’s sort of like how you have to breathe rapidly after having spent too long holding your breath. Your body gasps for air, just as it gasps for food after a “famine.”
Depending on your level of discipline, weight regain might not happen for a week, a few months, or a year, but it will inevitably happen. That’s because crash–dieters learn only how to white-knuckle weight loss, but do not learn how to eat appropriately. Inappropriate eating creates your weight problems.
If having excess body fat is an issue, your goal for 2010 needs to be to learn how to manage the overabundant food supply, manage stress and emotions without overeating; manage to find time to exercise, and manage to get enough sleep. Weight reduction has more to do with management of food, stress, sleep, exercise and emotions than it has to do with food…
Your best bet for learning how to chip away at slow but steady weight loss is to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) who can help you develop the skills you need to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life. To find a local sports dietitian, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. Alternatively, my Sports Nutrition Guidebook has a strong section on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise.
Q. I want to bulk up while getting leaner. How can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?
A. Its difficult for the body to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Building muscle requires calories. If you are restricting calories to lose undesired body fat, your body does not have the fuel it needs to create new muscle tissue. Instead, the body breaks down muscle to use for fuel.
A dieting athlete can minimize muscle loss with
1) a small calorie deficit that contributes to slow fat loss.
Knock off 200 to 400 calories a day (not 800 to 1.000 calories!).
2) an adequate protein intake (i.e., enjoy a protein-rich food at each meal and snack).
A reasonable target is about 0.7 to 1.0 gram protein per pound body weight, or about 100 to 150 g protein for a 150-pound person. That equates to 1 quart of milk (32 g), 1 can tuna (35 g) and 6 ounces chicken breast (45 g), plus the protein you get in other foods (bread, cereal, vegetables). Protein supplements tend to be needless; food can supply what you need.
3) frequently eaten meals that offer a constant supply of protein and fuel.
Eat at least every three or four hours, and have a small protein-rich bedtime snack, such as some cottage cheese.
4) strength training to help protect against muscle loss.
Your body protects the muscles you use, but breaks down the muscles that are less active and uses them for fuel.
For more information on how to lose fat and maintain energy for exercise, see