Choose You Blog

Overstuffed: Expert Tips for Conscious Eating

November 29th, 2010 by - no comments

Enjoying the holiday season, and all of the delicious food that comes with it, is important. Denial rarely works, I can personally attest. But there is a way to ensure that you don’t hit the new year with more of you than you intended. Nutrition expert Kathie Nelson, who has been helping me with my eat right pledge, offers her best tips for how you can eat and achieve your health goals.

“I just need to lose those last 5 pounds (or 10 or 15 or whatever).”  How many of you have ever said that?  Most people do at one time or another and dietitians hear it very often, too.  It seems those last few pounds are the most problematic.  Maybe since the ultimate goal is in sight you tend to “take your eye off the ball”, you become a little lax, wishing and hoping that whatever you have been doing up to this point will just keep you going in the right direction.  How is that working for you? My guess is, not very well.  It is never easy to lose weight and my suggestion for getting those stubborn pounds off is probably something you have heard before and although you may not want to hear again, it does work plus there is something else that you might not know about.

The first suggestion is easy to do, it is not fancy and you do not need a lot of pricy equipment.  Have you guessed what it is?  It is the dreaded food record.  Why dreaded?  It takes time and effort to do it correctly.  Food records can be very revealing or they can be a waste of your time.  In order for them to work, all your really need is pen and paper—that is the easiest part. There are also apps for your phone or programs available (usually for a fee) from the internet if you like a more tech approach plus there are a variety of food journals at your local bookstore.  Even those are not going to help if you are not conscious, deliberate and complete about recording your intake.  Let’s break it down.

Conscious means you are aware of every morsel and sip that passes your lips—it is easy to forget that broken cookie or last bite of pasta from your children’s plate or that glass of wine you drank while preparing dinner.  Deliberate means every morsel and sip gets recorded shortly after consumption because it is easy to forget what you ate.  Being conscious and deliberate have the advantage of making you aware and giving you the opportunity to ask yourself if you really want that food and if you are willing to write it down.  Finally, complete means you give an honest and accurate measure and description of what you eat.  After all, it is all about calories.   Keeping these points in mind, take a look at this scenario.It is a typical day.  You have a quick breakfast at home then off to work, swinging by Starbucks for a coffee on the way.  Walking into the office you see a colleague has brought in a special treat and left a plate full of cookies in the break room.  Mid-morning rolls around and you pop into the break room to sample a chocolate chip cookie, your favorite.  Lunch is quick and at your desk.  Quitting time and as you drive home you are thinking about what to have for dinner.  As you walk in the door you kick off your shoes, pour a glass of wine and get started on dinner.   After dinner you sit down to record your daily intake.  Here is what you recorded:

Breakfast:  Cereal, juice, toast

Lunch: Sandwich, chips and diet drink

Dinner: Chicken, vegetable, potato, salad, tea

Hummm….is this going to work?  Were you conscious of what you were eating—what about that coffee at Starbucks?  Was it just coffee or was it a tall caramel macchiato, what about that cookie or cookies, did you forget anything else?  Were you deliberate—when did you record your intake?  Were you complete—did you eat an entire chicken or just the breast?  How large was the breast—3 oz, 4 oz? ;   was it fried, grilled, roasted, with the skin on or off?  How much and what kind of juice did you have?  Where is that glass of wine or was it two glasses?  You get the idea.  An advantage of the tech approach to recording is that most programs will have prompts for amounts, preparation  and description of the food.  In addition, these programs calculate the calories in the food but you have to be honest and precise to get an accurate calorie level.  Additional helpful information to record includes time of day, where you are when you eat and an assessment of your feelings at the time you eat.  All of the information in the food record can reveal patterns in your food choices, serving sizes, problem time(s) of day and emotions related to your eating.   Now that you know what is really going on you can pinpoint the area(s) to change to get you back on track and get those straggling pounds off.  You might find that it is as simple as reducing your portion size.

Now that you have an accurate food record you can determine how many calories you are consuming but knowing that number is only part of the equation.  How many calories do you need each day?  You can probably rattle off your cholesterol level but, if asked, could you state with confidence the number of calories you need to maintain your weight or lose weight?  You may have an idea or maybe that number has been calculated using one of the standard formulas.  The problem with the formulas is they are not individual enough and do not take into account variables such as,  thyroid problems, certain hormones, body composition, certain supplements or pharmaceuticals—all which can affect the resulting number.   So what is a better way?

The better way is something called indirect calorimetry.  Instead of estimating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and daily calorie needs you can get an accurate number by having a simple 5-10 minute non-invasive test by a device called MedGem® (offered in clinical settings) or BodyGem® (offered by dietitians or other healthcare professionals  who do not bill to insurance  or by physical trainers ) that measures oxygen consumption.  The resulting number is as individual as your cholesterol.   Think of this number as another vital medical statistic you should know.  For more information or for help to locate a provider, Google MedGem® or BodyGem®.

So there you have it; an easy way to find out what you are eating, when you are eating and how many calories you are eating plus a way to have your exact calorie needs measured.  With this information you can now determine what you need to do to lose those last 5, 10, 15 or more pounds.

Kathie Nelson is a registered/licensed dietitian by training and business professional by experience with 12 years of progressive out-patient clinical and operational management experience at a leading national healthcare organization and over 20 years of out-patient nutrition education experience in the US and Asia focusing on health/wellness and obesity.  Over her career she has recruited, coached, developed dietitians and administrated professionals, developed programs and implemented strategic initiatives and process improvements to attract and retain patients enrolled in various weight loss programs.

Currently she is a nutrition advisor for the American Cancer Society Choose You program and is in transition as she seeks her next career opportunity.

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