You come to the Aspen Club regularly. You are active and you love hiking, skiing, and cycling. You believe that you are a healthy eater, but you are just not where you want to be with your weight. You think that losing five to ten pounds would make you feel better, look better, and you want to be lighter to improve your time up Aspen Mountain for the upcoming Summit for Life. Here are my top ten suggestions to help get you where you want to be.
1. Get real about what you are eating. If you are exercising regularly, and your weight is not where you want it to be, it is because of what, and how much you are eating. Get a notebook and start writing down EVERYTHING you are eating and drinking, and then calculate how many calories you have eaten at the end of the day. The alternative is using an app like “My Fitness Pal.” This app is great and will do all of the calculations for you and it is free. Logging will make you think twice about ordering that scone with your afternoon coffee and it will reveal where you can make changes. Clients who have done this report that it is a hassle at first, but if done consistently, logging what you eat makes a huge difference. This may be the only thing you need to do.
2. Eat out less. When you eat out, you will eat at least 200 calories more per meal than you would if you prepared your own food. Restaurants give big portions, and they are usually too liberal with oils, sugar, and salt.
3. If you drink alcohol, consider stopping or sharply reducing. This is a biggie. We Aspenites on the whole are leaner and healthier than average, but we can drink a little too much. Liquid calories are dangerous because we just don’t think that a glass or two of wine really makes a difference, but it does. Calculate 150-200 calories per glass. The other thing you may have noticed is that it is hard to eat healthy when you are a little buzzed. Limit yourself to one drink, and ideally only on special occasions. Over time, you may find that making this one change will get you to your target weight.
4. Add some intensity. If you are not doing any interval training, you are losing out. Adding two days of interval training will burn more calories during and after your exercise session. Intense exercise tends to use the fat around your middle for fuel. We all should know that spot reducing is a myth, but in this case, there is some truth to it. We are not sure why our bodies use more abdominal fat during vigorous exercise but we are glad it does! Abdominal fat promotes inflammation and is therefore disease promoting.
5. Get the crap out of your house, office, car and any other place you hang out. If it isn’t there you won’t eat it. The excuse I hear most is “I keep these cookies, candies, and chips in the house for the kids, or when company stops by.” Do yourself and your kids a favor and keep healthy snacks around instead, or if you feel strongly about having that stuff around for your kids or company, put it in a place where you can’t see it. Do the same in your work place. Keep the candy and other crappy snacks in a place that is not visible, like on a high shelf. You know that stash of M&Ms in your drawer? How about changing it out for unbuttered popcorn instead.
6. Some supplements can really pack on the pounds. If you are drinking Gatorade or some other sports beverage straight out of the container, know that you are consuming an enormous amount of sugar and calories. If you are exercising for a couple of hours you will need to replace electrolytes and salt you are losing, and adding a little salt can help your body absorb fluid better. You can make your own sports drink pretty easily with a little diluted fruit juice, salt and bit of coconut water. Don’t get sucked into those “sports nutrition systems.” The other supplements that pack on the pounds are protein drinks and bars. Even very active people can easily get their protein needs met through food. Getting lots of extra protein through protein drinks and bars will not build muscle. It will however build your fat stores.
7. Stop thinking that there is a quick and easy way to lose weight and keep it off, because there just isn’t. You can lose weight fairly quickly by doing a cleanse, or the fad diet du jour, but you have less than a 5% chance of keeping it off. Repeated restrictive dieting also messes with your metabolism, and it makes losing weight in the future much harder. The best diets have the following characteristics.
· They are high in unprocessed vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables should make up at least 50% of your plate.
· Lean protein such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes should make up 25% of your plate. Processed meats and red meat are high in fat and calories and have a strong link to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. I know bacon is a very trendy thing to eat right now, but it is full of saturated fat, and along with adding lots of calories, it is very, very bad for your health.
· Whole grains should make up the other 25% of your plate. Notice I said whole grains. Stay away from processed grains such as bagels, white bread and pasta, especially if you want to lose weight.