Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Common Challenges: Weight Maintenance

Weight maintenance takes work. This is true whether you are hoping to maintain a recent weight loss or to ensure your weight stays on track as you age.

Calories In vs. Calories Out

Maintaining your weight is more complicated than maintaining the ratio of calories eaten vs. calories burned. Why? Because there are so many variables that affect this ratio, such as metabolic efficiency (is your body burning the right types of energy appropriately) timing of meals, and type of exercise (anaerobic vs. aerobic). Be sure to take into account your energy needs (for daily living plus exercise), nutritional needs, and exercise regimen. These are different for every person and vary according to age, sex, weight, co-morbidities, and fitness level.

Loss vs. Maintenance

Be flexible in your approach to weight maintenance. What works to lose weight does not always work for maintenance. If you’ve lost weight through calorie restriction and/or by eliminating groups of foods, weight maintenance will likely require different strategies. For example, you may find that eliminating fried foods and refined carbohydrates produced good results and were achievable strategies during the weight loss stage. However, not many people can maintain these restrictions day in and day out, for the rest of their lives! Restrictive diet strategies like this are vulnerable to weight re-gain.

Tips for Keeping Weight Stable

Here are a few promising strategies for maintaining weight. Try a few and see how they work for you.

·         Exercise regularly. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join a gym.  Do something you like such as hiking, walking, or riding bikes.  Everyone is different so it’s important to speak with your physician before starting an exercise regimen.  A loose goal is to focus on physical activity for one hour each day.

·         Sleep. Make your goal eight hours of sleep each night. Research shows that less than eight hours has a negative effect on our hormones, driving us to overeat and store energy as fat.

·         Hydrate. Our bodies are surprisingly poor at sending thirst signals. By the time we actually feel thirsty; we have already been dehydrated for 8 to 10 hours. Dehydration saps your energy and can even cause false hunger cues and salt cravings.

·         Make room for produce. Have a goal of eating at least 5 total servings of a combination of fruits and vegetables each day.  Both provide great sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help regulate metabolism.

·         Keep a food diary. If the scale shows a weight gain, try keeping a food diary for a few days. It may help you pinpoint the problem. If you’re a person who loves technology, consider using a smart phone app to help you track daily food intake and physical activity. A Northwestern Medicine study found that using a mobile app combined with nutrition and exercise classes helped people lose and keep off an average of 15 pounds. http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/12/mobile-app-boosts-weight-loss.html



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Food Trends: Eating Like a Caveman? (The Paleo Diet)

Everywhere you turn, people are talking Paleo! Here at Kindred Nutrition, Paleo is the eating plan clients ask about most.

What is Paleo?

Websites, magazines, even entire books are devoted to Paleo. The diet is especially popular among people advocating the Crossfit exercise plan. But what, exactly, is Paleo? Well, descriptions vary depending on who you ask. But most advocates generally define the Paleo diet as those foods eaten by our hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic) ancestors. This translates to lots of animal protein and lots of plants (veggies and fruits). The rationale for the Paleo diet, loosely explained, is that we should eat those foods humans evolved eating, as opposed to the grain-heavy, processed diet of more modern times. The argument seems logical enough, and lots of fresh produce is a no-brainer, right? Let’s take a closer look.

Paleo Basics
To “eat Paleo,” avoid all processed foods and sugar, and limit (but do not eliminate) carbohydrates. Specifically, avoid grains (wheat, corn, etc.) and focus on animal protein, non-starchy vegetables, and fruits. Paleo advocates often differ on whether any starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.) are appropriate. Some Paleo eaters embrace beans and lentils, while others do not. 

A Paleo diet is likely to be full of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and low on the Glycemic Index. It’s entirely possible that many people will feel great and lose weight eating this way. I am somewhat concerned with the long-term, however. Eliminating dairy and grains means eliminating main sources of calcium, fiber, and other nutrients, which opens the door for nutritional deficiencies. And, this diet is restrictive and will require advance planning to maintain day in and day out. The burnout potential is high. If you haven’t been practicing portion control and continually are “sneaking” non-Paleo foods, weight maintenance is likely to be a problem.

So, what’s the takeaway on the Paleo diet?

Ø  Advantage: The diet dramatically reduces sugar and sodium consumption, which is a great benefit. Another plus is that there is a lot of support for this diet. A quick Web query will bring up tons of information, book titles, sample diet plans, and forums for followers to share experiences.  And, protein is filling, so it’s unlikely you will go hungry on this diet.

Ø  Challenge: The Paleo diet prohibits dairy and grains. Restrictive diets are difficult to adhere to long-term and require monitoring to ensure your diet provides vital nutrition. For example, whole grains provide much-needed fiber and are also fortified with nutrients. You’ll miss out on all of that by eating Paleo. As a dietician I’m always concerned when a diet eliminates entire categories of foods like this.

Ø  For Your Consideration: If you choose to follow the Paleo diet, be sure to identify your calcium sources and consider a Vitamin D supplement. Also, have a plan for how you will handle eating when you can’t easily supply or control your meals (e.g., social dining situations, restaurants). If possible, consult a dietician. He or she can review your Paleo food choices and help tweak them to ensure optimal nutrition.


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