How to Win the Weight Loss Battle
Before leaving for the wedding weekend on Thursday, I got to attend a lunch talk by Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and professor at the Sargent School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at BU. I have heard this same talk twice before, but she always has so many excellent points that I come away with at least one or two new ideas each time! Her talk was entitled, “How to Win the Weight Loss Battle” and focused on the obesity epidemic, potential reasons why weight is becoming such a problem, and strategies to help people make small changes. Here are some of my favorite tips from her lecture:
You have to move more! But don’t reward your hour-long walk with the dog or half hour at the gym with an extra serving of dessert! She has a client vignette that cracks me up every time: an older man had reached a plateau with his weight loss, so she recommended that he walk the dog for 45 minutes every night before dinner. He did, came back and only had lost 1 pound. Frustrated, he exclaimed, “I did exactly what you said, and only lost 1 pound. The dog, on the other hand, lost 11! What gives?!” She later got him to own up to his extra serving of dinner each night because he thought he burned it off walking. So be careful that you aren’t overcompensating for calories burned!
Have family dinner! As a kid, we used to eat dinner together as a family at least 5-6 nights a week, but that is becoming a thing of the past in many households. Even with busy schedules, for both kids and adults, it is still important to slow down and share food together. This gives time to only eat as much as you are hungry for, and also increases the likelihood of it being healthier food.
Find life outside of the
kitchen pantry. This is the only point that I slightly disagreed with Joan about. I think more people need to find life inside the kitchen. Cooking can be fun and simple; it is not that hard to eat healthy, and even easy to make healthy food taste good! The problem is that so many people are kitchen-phobic. Cook dinner, sit down with friends and family around the dinner table as mentioned above, and enjoy real food. Find life outside the pantry, the snack closet, the cookie jar, or whatever other food force enslaves you, and replace the time spent mindlessly snacking in front of the TV with a new movement based hobby, but find life inside of the kitchen to find new favorite healthy dinners.
Remove the myth around frozen veggies. Many people think that it is only good for you if it is fresh, but that isn’t always the case. Many vegetables are picked early and allowed to ripen so they are fresh in the grocery store. Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak and then flash frozen, making them just as good as fresh. Plus, they are often pre-chopped and really convenient for easy weekday meals. Watch out for mixes that contain any sort of dressing or added salt, and stay away from canned. But eating frozen veggies on weeknights for convenience is much better than eating frozen dinners or fast food!
Eat pasta in a 1:1 ratio. Joan is a NJ Italian, so she understands the “mangia” mentality about some beloved Italian American foods. Even if you aren’t Italian, who doesn’t love pasta?! The only problem is that it can be calorie dense without nutrient dense. Instead of eating 2 cups of cooked pasta (400 calories), eat a cup of pasta with a cup of cooked vegetables mixed in (250 calories). Same amount of volume, equally satiating, and an easy way to cut 150 calories from your meal. Similar to this idea, take some of the meat and cheese of your sandwich and replace it with veggies, and load up your omelets with veggies. Your stomach’s hunger signals respond to volume faster than calories, so be sure to satiate yourself with low-calorie, high-nutrient foods like fruits and veggies! Joan’s famous catch phrase: “They fill you up before they fill you out.”
Eat on smaller plates. Standard dinner plates used to be 8 inches. Now they are 12. Most of us are not gourmets and will not leave a large rim around the plate for decoration. Instead, we eat with our eyes and fill our plates. Then we clear them, remembering times at the dinner table when mom wouldn’t let us leave food behind. This can lead to up to a 500 calorie increase in dinner! If we use smaller plates, we eat less but feel equally as satisfied after clearing our plate. Even more, you should use the plate method, newly adopted to replace the outdated food pyramid. If you divided your plate down the center, half should be fruits and veggies. The other quarter should be lean protein, and the last quarter should be whole grains.
You gotta eat! A hungry person is a cranky person, and cranky people are far less likely to make healthy decisions. You need to eat 3 meals a day, but they should be smaller. In between meals, snack on whole fruits and veggies or small servings of air-popped popcorn. Look for things that are full of fiber but low in calories for snacks. Don’t let your day be a triangle, with all of your calories consumed at night. Space your meals pretty evenly throughout the day, and have protein at every meal to help you stay full longer!
Breakfast is always the hardest for me to incorporate protein into. It is pretty natural to add beans to my salad, have quinoa at dinner, and ensure that I get protein at other points of the day, but it is not always so easy first thing in the morning. Recently, I have been adding a tablespoonful of peanut butter to my oatmeal, and that really makes a difference in staying full until my lunch break. This breakfast burrito is another great way to stay full all morning. It kept me full for 5 hours while running around all morning setting up for my best friend’s rehearsal dinner (more on the wedding soon!) Eggs can get a bad rep with dieters because they are high in cholesterol. The bigger problem than eggs, however, is that with eggs usually comes gobs of cheese. To keep this breakfast full of flavor without all of the added cholesterol, I filled it up with veggies and spices! In this breakfast alone there is a full serving of veggies, whole grains and proteins, and you won’t miss the cheese at all.
Question: What is your favorite take-home point from Joan’s talk?
High Protein Breakfast Burrito
1 tbsp milk
3/4 cup black beans (half a can)
1/2 yellow squash
1/2 red pepper
2 whole wheat tortillas
2 tbsp salsa
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Dice the red pepper and yellow squash. Coat a frying pan with cooking spray and saute the vegetables over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, until they are soft. Add the black beans and cumin. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pour over the vegetables and scramble. When eggs are mostly cooked, add the salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half into each tortilla, roll, and serve warm.