Category Archives: Healthy Living

Time For a Drink

How much do you drink? Okay, but I didn’t just mean alcohol. . . how much fluid do you put into your body each day? There are some interesting facts around the human body and its need for liquids – some good and some not so good if you are trying to lose weight.

First, let’s look at alcohol: the number of calories in an alcoholic drink depend on how much alcohol is in whatever you are imbibing. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, so the alcoholic content of what’s in your glass plays a role in how many calories you are taking in. Spirits like whiskey, rum, vodka or scotch are the highest number of calories per ounce of liquor, but most people drink less of these drinks than they do of wine or beer. Or to look at it another way, one beer is less calories than going on a hard liquor bender. My guess though, is that if someone is partying their way across town, calories are not uppermost in their mind!

Some averages on your favorite drinks:

  • 12 oz. beer: 150 – 175 calories
  • 12 oz. lite beer: 95 – 110 calories
  • 4 oz. red wine: 80 – 100 calories
  • 4 oz. white wine: 75 – 100 calories
  • 4 oz. champagne: 100 – 180 calories
  • 4 oz. dessert or ice wine: 100 – 200 calories
  • 12 oz. cooler (like Smirnoff Ice): 225 – 250 calories
  • 1 oz. hard liquor: +/- 80 calories without mix
  • 1 oz. highball (with mix): 100 – 150 calories

So, if you are like the rest of us and like a sip from time to time, don’t forget to take the calorie count into consideration!

Now let’s talk about another kind of drink – good old water. Did you know that your body is about 50 to 65 percent water? Women are comprised of 50 to 60 percent and men run 60 to 65 percent. Different parts of your body vary in their water percentage as well, with your brain, heart, lungs and muscles running at 75 to 85 percent water. That gives you some idea of why water is such an important part of your weight loss strategy. You don’t want to lose too much water and leave all of your organs fighting for survival!

Let’s look at those numbers a different way. . . According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2002, an average American woman weighs 163 pounds, which translates into approximately 89 pounds of water. (American men are 191 pounds or about 119 pounds of water.) If we roughly convert that to gallons, women carry about 9 gallons and men about 12 gallons of water around every day.

Of course, the temptation can often be to ‘sweat the weight off’ and not replenish the water that is lost. (Incidentally, perspiration is only 95 percent water, with the remainder comprised of minerals, trace elements, salt and chemicals produced by the body including pheromones – the reason for ‘replacing our electrolytes’.)

“Proper water intake is a key to weight loss,” says Dr. Donald Robertson, medical director of the Southwest Bariatric Nutrition Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.  “If people who are trying to lose weight don’t drink enough water, the body can’t metabolize the fat adequately.  Retaining fluid also keeps weight up.”

So if you don’t drink sufficient water, you can impair every aspect of your body’s operation.  Dr. Howard Flaks, a bariatric specialist in Beverly Hills, Calif, says, “By not drinking enough water, many people incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness and water retention.”

According to Dr. Flaks, the minimum amount of water for a healthy person is 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day.  “You need more if you exercise a lot or live in a hot climate.  And overweight people should drink in an extra glass for every 25 pounds they exceed their ideal weight,” he says.  To be safe, you might consult your own doctor or dietitian for their recommendations.

Stealing water from your body to get a better number on the scale is not only cheating your “real” weight loss numbers, but it is putting your body’s parts into a danger zone in terms of proper functioning. Don’t fight your body’s needs by withholding water – as you can see, it actually stands in the way of proper fat-burning.

And that calls for a drink. . . of water!


Six Reasons to Give Up On Your Weight Loss Program

I read over the past several posts here and got the impression that a lot of this stuff sounds pretty serious. So, to counteract some of that seriousness, I tried to write this one in a lighter vein. . . we’ll see if it works!

Six reasons to give up on your weight loss program include:

  1. It will mean you won’t eat things that are good for you. . . in the car, in the bath, on the bus and in that bistro with the great biscotti and lattes.
  2. It will make you less difficult from now on. How many waiters have looked skyward when you started asking for special foods and cooking methods in order to meet your calorie and nutrient restrictions?
  3. If things get too bulky, you can always take on one of those “lose 50 pounds in 10 minutes” diet plans. They must work for somebody because there’s a bundle of them out there!
  4. You are tired of seeing your blender on the counter waiting to provide that morning smoothie – which, by the way, is not the color of real food (if gray-brown-green-orange is actually a color.)
  5. You always feel guilty leaving food on a plate in a restaurant. At those prices, we should eat it all and then some!
  6. You are ready to give in to your family and friends and eat like they do. After all, they’re always telling you “Why are you on a diet, you just look comfortable!”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that funny, but I did smile in a couple of places. How about you?

Okay, 3 More Myths About Weight Loss!

Revisiting the myths from yesterday, I think we need to include a few more. . .

Myth #4: There are pills that can help us lose weight. Right, and there’s a Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny too! The use of pills, remedies and recipes to control weight goes back to the 1800s (have a look at this one!) and their effectiveness hasn’t changed. . . Science cannot improve on the tried-and-true formula, which is less calories + more exercise = weight loss!

Myth #5: Eat 2 or fewer times per day – less calories is part of the formula, right? WRONG! Two things work against this myth: 1. our body needs food to produce energy to work and keep itself in operation, so it will wait until we feed it something and hold on to that food with a vengeance. 2. Eating less causes our body to go after all parts of itself for energy, not just fat. . . so we lose muscle mass as well as fat. This isn’t healthy, and will make us less able to move around, less able to exercise, less able to lose weight in the future. Vicious circle, isn’t it?

Myth #6: Eating salads is healthy and will knock the pounds off. Well, maybe. But if you’re thinking salad with salad dressing, salad in a restaurant, salad with all the trimmings, you may as well eat something you like. Several days ago, I wrote about a fictional woman’s one day eating routine and mentioned a Caesar Salad for dinner. That salad weighed in at 1,190 calories. Applebees has a regular Oriental Grilled Chicken Salad that comes in at 1,240 calories. Believe this myth only at your own peril!

And that’s all I’ll say about myths for a while!

3 Myths About Weight Loss

I was going over some old posts on the net about weight loss, and read one from the Diet Channel written in 2006 that talked about the reasons why we don’t lose weight. I had forgotten the story that weight loss is not like emptying a bucket with a ladle and it made me think about other weight loss myths (or misunderstandings) that get in the way of successful weight loss.

Myth #1: To recount the bucket story: “A scoop out of the bucket today, tomorrow, next week will eventually empty the bucket.” But, in our bodies, the reality is quite different – the harder we try to diet, the more intently our body fights back to preserve itself! This is why it is desirable (and it sounds like a broken record) that an increase in exercise should accompany a loss in calories. Our body will react less to increased work than it will to a decrease in calories, so that’s why we hear that ‘exercise‘ word over and over again.

Myth #2: This one should be Myth Number 1! It is extremely unlikely that we will lose ’30 pounds in 30 days’, or ’20 pounds in 20 days’, or even ’10 pounds in 10 days.’ Even more unlikely, even if we could hit those numbers, is the reality that we can and will keep it off.  Contrary to what we see in every weight loss product ad, and what is happening on The Biggest Loser, permanent weight loss requires a lifestyle change, an understanding of how to change our body’s reaction to food and exercise slowly over a long period of time, and an even bigger understanding of how we got to be over-weight in the first place.

Myth #3: Fat and carbohydrates are bad for us. Sorry South Beach and friends, but a healthy diet includes ‘good’ non-saturated fats (that’s why they’re called essential fatty acids!) and ‘good’ carbohydrates. Simple carbs (white sugar, corn syrup and the like) are BAD, complex carbs (fresh vegetables and fruits, multi-grains and so on) are GOOD. They provide vitamins, trace elements, minerals and fiber – which also helps to make you feel full, but that’s a story for a different time.

Myth #4: That there are only 3 myths about weight loss is a joke. . . there are thousands, but the 3 myths above are ones that we face nearly every day.

Keep fighting!

Take Control of Your Portions

I hate restaurants! Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong but it took me a long time to find out that they were definitely not my friends. . .

Let’s have a quick little story:

Cindy lives by herself and works in an office about 35 minutes from her home by transit. She has to be at work by 8:00 am and has a 15 minute coffee break at 10 am and lunch from noon to 12:30. In the afternoon, she has another break at 2:30 and goes home at 4:30. By that time, she is tired, stressed out by work worries, difficult clients and the ride home on the hot, overloaded bus.

That doesn’t sound too different than my day. . . how about yours?

Let’s look at the food choices that Cindy made during the day.

Cindy climbed out of bed at 6:30 am to be on the 7:15 bus – no time for breakfast so she got a Latte and a scone from Starbucks beside the bus stop. At 10, she stopped for a coffee and finished the second half of her ‘breakfast’ scone. Finally, at lunch, she rushed to the Golden Arches near her office. She was starving, so had a burger and fries and a chocolate shake and rushed back in time for the afternoon’s clients. At 2:30, she had a coffee (when was it made – tastes like 8 hours ago??) and bought a cookie pack from the vending machine to carry her until dinner. Home at 5:15, change clothes, drop in front of the television for the news and then think about dinner. . . Cindy is tired, irritable and faced with an empty fridge, so she calls a friend to see if a dinner date at the local restaurant is a possibility. What luck! Dinner with Diana is a go – and consists of a Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and a ‘special’ coffee.

Doesn’t sound bad in terms of quantity of food for the day, but let’s have a closer look at the ‘real’ portions, that is, the number of calories and other significant ingredients in what Cindy ate, and for now we’ll ignore the quality of the food that was eaten. . .

Breakfast: none. The human machine runs on empty until it gets an ulcer-building Caffè Latte (190 calories, 7 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein) and a blueberry scone (460 calories, 22 grams of fat, 61 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein.) At lunch, Cindy has a burger (540 calories, 29 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbs, 24 grams of protein), an order of fries (560 calories, 27 grams of fat, 74 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein) and a shake (760 calories, 18 grams of fat, 136 grams of carbs, 15 grams of protein.) Afternoon break was 2 Oreo cookies (320 calories, 7 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein) and dinner was a salad  with chicken breast (1,190 calories, 75 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs, 68 grams of protein) and a coffee with Kahlua (182 calories, 0 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, 0 grams of protein.) Totals for the day: (4,202 calories, 185 grams of fat, 398 grams of carbs, 134 grams of protein.)

Hold it! Let’s look at those numbers again! 4,202 calories and no large meals? Two and a half times the daily requirement for fat? One and a quarter times the daily requirement for carbohydrates and almost double the daily requirement for protein? And all that happened without a great deal of fiber, nutrients, vitamins, trace minerals. . . What the h*ll?

This is the long way around to explaining what “real” portions are. Real portions are the amount of fuel that you are putting in rather than the volume of products going into your mouth. It is not difficult to calculate what you need on a daily basis and then adjust what you eat by reading the fine print on the Nutrition Information panel on packaged foods and on the wall in fast food outlets. We have developed a Real Portion Calculator that you can use to check your diet and track your intake of fats, carbs and proteins which we will unveil in the next couple of weeks. . . you will be able to use it to keep track of your real food portions.

No more thinking you are doing “almost” the right thing when you’re actually eating way too much. You will be able to really take control of your portions! Good luck.

Weight Loss Buddies

Even though we all got to the size we are by putting food into our own mouths, and we stayed at the size we are because we, alone, made the decision to not exercise, there is no rule that says we have to tackle our weight loss all by ourselves! One of the easiest ways to keep on the path you have set for yourself is to find a weight loss buddy. It doesn’t have to be someone who also wants to lose a few pounds – just someone who, as a friend, will understand the difficulties of the challenge that you face, will provide unqualified support when you are feeling overwhelmed, and will challenge you with tough love when that is the order of the day!

For some, there are local support groups like Overeaters Anonymous. For others, it may be a registered dietition at the local health unit or clinic. Whatever your need, there should be someone out there who wants to help!

If all else fails, turn to the internet. There are numerous forums and chat groups that tackle weight loss and could provide some support. If you can’t find anyone, leave a comment here –  someone will read it and respond because we’re all in this together!

Toward a Complete Weight Loss Strategy

This site is completely focused on healthy ways for those of us over 55 to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of our lives. Over the past several weeks, the content has repeated the mantra of weight loss which is ‘Eat Less, Exercise More.‘ It seems strange that a multi-billion dollar industry fabricates tablets, equipment, powders, machines, diets, enzymes, experts, magic and a hit television show  around an issue that is this simple! Okay, it is only this simple if you leave the human side of the equation out of the picture – feelings, emotions, head games and the like are the big culprit when it comes to weight loss sabotage. Many dieters understand only too well the role of the mind in the weight loss program – and simply give up on their weight completely because they have come to understand diet failure patterns only too well.

Let’s see if we can come up with a strategy that isn’t so cut and dried as ‘Eat Less, Exercise More.’ Let’s start with weight maintenance at first, and then tackle weight loss once we see progress at simply maintaining the weight we are at right now. How to do that? Here’s some hints:

  • Assess your current weight realistically (that means don’t get on the scale fully-clothed, after a big meal and holding the cat!) and then set a goal date for when you want to check it again. One week out would be a good target – and all we want to see is no weight gain at that point.
  • Use the hints posted here over the last two weeks to change your diet over from fast food to whole food, from processed to fresh produce and from food-rewards to rewards of another kind.
  • Change your habits so that you can make five meals a day instead of three. . . (What? Eat More, You Say?) No, don’t eat more – eat more often! Each meal should consist of about 250 to 350 calories. Try for whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats (white chicken breasts are great), low-fat dairy products and lots of water. That’s 1250 to 1750 calories over the course of the day and you shouldn’t have a chance to get real hungry when food is scheduled for every 3 or 4 hours!
  • Make changes to your lifestyle to assist you with the changed eating patterns. Watch TV less and walk more, play tag or touch football with the kids, go to the zoo or park, go to the library and have a nice quiet time all by yourself. The one thing all of these suggestions have in common is that they keep you away from the fridge and pantry – a sure way to keep your weight in check!

After a couple or three weeks of this, you should see some patterns emerging. Take note of when you are tempted to eat, when you are tired and irritable and so on. Schedule your exercise (even just a quick walk) during the time you are tempted to go to the fridge, schedule your eating for when you are tired and so on. Just don’t schedule food to soothe a bad mood or loneliness – that’s part of what got many of us here in the first place! Make these changes as permanent as you possibly can by repeating them over and over again.

Okay, now it has been several weeks – you are comfortable with the new routines, you are pleased that you have some control over your weight, and best of all, you are not fighting the urge to give up and go back to the old ways. Congratulations, the tough part is over!

Now then, let’s try something bigger. . . how about a new goal like losing a few pounds?? With your new lifestyle – and your new belief that you can manage your weight – set a goal of a few pounds by a certain significant date. How about dropping a dress size in time for your daughter’s wedding? Or pulling your belt in one or two notches before the start of the new NFL season? Make the goal small and easily attainable. Most importantly: be reasonable and don’t set yourself up for failure.

Congratulations again! You now know you can achieve your weight loss goals if you set them up for success. And remember, you cannot change unless you make a change. Remember the definition of insanitydoing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome? Well, you beat that by doing something differently in the beginning to ensure that the outcome would be different!