3 Weight Loss Truths

If you haven’t been bombarded with weight loss ads over the past week, you’re probably on a remote island soaking up the sun with the waves gently teasing your feet (bring me next time). There’s something about the start of a New Year that makes people freak out, lose their senses and develop completely unrealistic eating plans they will never follow for more than a few days. Before you get sucked into a crazy diet or juice cleanse, you should know the top three truths about weight loss.

1) No One Eats “Clean” all of the Time

Instagram and Facebook are full of photos of broccoli, brown rice and chicken meals neatly placed in Tupperware and followed by #mealprep #eatclean. The only thing more boring than looking at these meals is eating them day after day. No one eats like this all of the time. No one.
I’ve worked with a number of elite athletes who cut weight before a fight, match or event. They diet down, compete then loosen up their diet a bit before they need to diet down again. They aren’t eating bodybuilding-type meals every day year-round.

2) There is No One Perfect Diet

Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, juice cleanses, Paleo, Whole30. There is no “perfect” because what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me. Figure out what changes you can realistically stick with, combine these with the general principles of healthy eating and start there. Forget what everyone else is doing, how your neighbor dropped 50 lbs. or what the actress on the cover of a magazine did. If you can’t stick with a plan, it won’t work.

Progress, not perfection, is the goal.

Celebrate each “win,” those small changes you’ve made that will add up to a big difference. You won’t necessarily notice a weight loss right away by making a few simple switches in your diet. However, I would rather people focus on the immediate difference – more energy, feeling better, more sleep, than the number on the scale. Feeling better each day will drive you to continue when the scale isn’t moving much.

3) You Must Exercise for Weight Loss

Can you lose weight without exercising? Yes absolutely. However, if you do not exercise you will lose more of your weight as muscle then fat. In addition to burning fewer calories each day when you lose muscle, you will notice a decline in strength and as you get older and everyday activities will become harder to do – lifting groceries, gardening, washing your car.

If you are not an exerciser and typically fall off when you start a new workout program, figure out what you like to do and do it. Forget all of the back-and-forth “noise” about high intensity interval training, the amount of rest in between sets and if you should train until muscle failure (until you cannot possibly lift the weight again). Instead, determine what brings you joy. What do you love to do? Dancing, yoga, hiking? What did you love doing as a kid? Hula hooping, double Dutch jump rope?

Do what makes you happy. Get moving and stay moving.

In addition to following these weight-loss truths, spend time feeling good about your body every single day. I meet so many people that are hyper focused on losing 5 pounds or 50 lbs. As they rattle off the reasons why they want to lose body fat and how this will drastically alter their life and make them happy, my mind often drifts off. I wonder what percentage of their thoughts are consumed by losing weight and dieting and if they are hyper-focused on controlling this aspect of their life because something else isn’t right. A marriage, their job, a friendship, their child’s behavior. If I ask the right questions something else they are ignoring often comes up.

Maintaining weight within a good range is very important for overall health. Obsessing about weight and dieting isn’t. I’ve coached enough people to know that one day you’ll look back years from now and wonder why you wasted so much time hating your body.

You’ll look back and say, “damn, I looked good! I wish I felt better about myself.”

“I wish I wore shorts in the summer.”

“Why didn’t I go to the beach in a bathing suit?”

“I wish I went to that party.”

I promise you, no one is criticizing your body. Every one around you is too busy focused on themselves. So go out and wear shorts, put on a bathing suit, try on that dress.

If you don’t love your body now, you won’t feel your best every day. You won’t enjoy life to the fullest. Work in this first (or in conjunction with healthy eating / a healthy approach to weight loss).

Because it’s a waste of time to spend your days bashing the body that does so much for you.

Avoid Packing on the Pounds this Holiday Season

If holiday parties tempt your desire to overindulge in mouth-watering creamy dips, comforting homemade casseroles and delectable desserts, you may find yourself panicking by the end of December and ready to crash diet on January 1st. Instead of doing something stupid (crash dieting), try a more sensible approach to avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season while still enjoying yourself. Follow these 3 tips for keeping calories in check this holiday season:

  1. Think “strategic placement” at holiday parties. While other people may worry about locating themselves near the life of the party, locate yourself away from the chip and dip bowl, especially if a meal will be served. Grab a small plate with a couple of appetizers, then walk away. Chances are you’ll get caught up in a conversation which will prevent the temptation to over-indulge in extra calories. Consider strategic placement strategy when filing your plate as well. Make half of your plate fresh fruits and veggies and the other half those higher calorie items that you can’t wait to dig into.
  1. Make smart swaps to traditional favorites. Admittedly, the holidays aren’t the best time to try an entirely different approach to cherished family menus, but you can make improvements. Try swapping reduce fat dairy for regular dairy, broth based soups instead of creamy versions and lighter versions of other ingredients as well. In addition, try adding grated vegetables (zucchini, carrots and onions often work well) in place of some ground meat in meat-based dishes.
    Not only will this enhance the nutrition value of your dish but it will also improve the flavor.
  1. Don’t drink away all your good efforts. No matter how great your strategy is for choosing healthier foods at the holidays, alcoholic drinks can be your calorie downfall. The best solution: alternate your beverages with a glass of water or club soda. You’ll stay better hydrated, keep calories in check and avoid a hangover. If plain water doesn’t sound very appealing, try sparkling water or club soda with a splash of 100% juice and a twist of lime. This simple strategy will help you reduce your calories and help you stay hydrated thereby preventing a hangover the next day. Also, if you are a wine drinker, take out a liquid measuring cup and measure 4 oz. of wine and pour it into a wine glass so you know what one serving of wine looks like. It is considerably smaller than you may think.

Simple Ingredient Substitutions for a Healthier Year

Do you need to recover from weeks of overeating during the holiday season? If so, I am sharing some of my favorite ingredient substitutions with you.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 lb. ground turkey
4 large egg whites or 2 whole eggs
4 oz. uncooked Old Fashioned oats (measure on a scale)
Vegetable soup mix
1 cup chopped onions
8 oz. mild salsa
2 cloves minced garlic

Mix turkey meat and egg whites until mixed throughout. Add salsa, onions and garlic. In a separate bowl mix vegetable soup mix with oatmeal. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients into a loaf pan and cook for 45 minutes at 375°F, midway through cooking, top with aluminum foil if top of meatloaf is cooked.

Blueberry Muffins
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
1 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup all purpose flour)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp. melted light soft spread (butter substitute)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners. Mix ¼ cup oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. melted soft spread and 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and set aside (streusel topping). Combine all wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Blend wet and dry ingredients together until just moistened, do not over mix. Add 1 cup frozen blueberries. Let sit for 5 minutes.Top with streusel topping. Fill muffin cups until 2/3 full and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Creamy Light Mac n Cheese
Recipe modified from: Sidney Fry, RD, Cooking Light September 2011

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp. plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) 50% light Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Cabot Light Cheddar, Pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Krista Ackerbloom Montgomery, Cooking Light 
September 2007

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-oz.) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-oz.) package baked tortilla chips or whole grain crackers (about 16 cups)


Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Healthy Hash Brown Casserole
Recipe courtesy of Aimee Fortney, Not the Perfect Cook
Makes 6 servings

Cooking spray
4 Russet potatoes, about 2 pounds total, peeled and cut in half
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut in half
8 ounces light Cheddar or Sharp Extra Light Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups), divided
1 cup 2% Plain Greek-Style Yogurt or Plain Greek-Style Yogurt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 9-inch square or similar baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In food processor fitted with grater blade, grate potatoes and one onion half; transfer to large bowl.
3. With hand grater, grate remaining onion half directly over bowl, scraping all juice and onion from inside grater into bowl.
4. Add 1 cup of cheese and yogurt, black pepper, red pepper and salt; stir until potatoes are coated. Spread mixture in prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.



Making Your New Year’s Resolution a Reality

It’s day 6, where’s your New Year’s resolution?  If you are having trouble sticking with it or you just don’t believe in yourself, I’m going to give you the top determinants of success for behavioral change:

1) You have to believe in yourself. Yesterday I met with a lady who was basically talking herself out of getting past this 30 lb weight loss barrier she’s had in the past. We hardly talked about nutrition but instead worked on reframing her mind.  Without the right vision of yourself, you’ll never reach your goals. If that means having your friends and coworkers stop you every time you beat yourself up out loud or that you need to put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror with positive affirmations, so be it. Do what it takes.

2) You need a good support system. If the people around you constantly telling you what you can’t do or holding you back, it’s time to sit down and have a serious discussion with them (probably several) or spend less time with these people. Classic example: a + 300 lb lady I met whose husband was constantly trying to feed her. On the flip side, I know another young lady trying to lose weight whose husband (a busy PhD student) created a detailed excel spreadsheet to help her track her food intake – she is successfully losing 2-4 lbs a week.

3) You need goals. SMART goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-sensitive. An example of a wishy washy goal: I want to lose weight.  A better example: I want to lose 15 lbs by March 1 so that I can avoid being put on gluclose-lowering medications the next time I go to my physician.

4) You need a realistic plan. Make exercise a habit. Even if that means you are committing to just 20 minutes a day.  Find a plan that suits your lifestyle. If you want to do it on your own, take a look at Bodybuilding.com: http://www.bodybuilding.com/guides/  or  Muscle & Fitness: http://www.muscleandfitnesstrainer.com/ for a wealth of information.

5) It’s time to ditch the black or white thinking. Eating a cookie isn’t going to wreck your weight loss goals. But, eating a cookie, beating yourself up about it and then eating the entire bag of cookies will. People who are successful at making changes accept the fact that they aren’t perfect but they are trying their best. They don’t let missing a workout, an injury or illness or a day full of beer, wings and fries derail them.

What’s the bottom line?  After years of working with a variety of people, I can attest to the fact that success with weight loss, weight gain, physique change or performance nutrition is largely dependent on your 1) commitment and desire and 2) your vision and belief in yourself. There’s tons of information out there and awesome trainers, sports nutritionists and resources to keep you on track. But, you have to be committed and believe.