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Losing the Weight

(1/2/08) Well, its that time again... The holidays are over. The new year is here. Suddenly the gym has become crowded. More people are on the streets jogging. Dieting advertisements are rampant. It must be New Year's resolution time.

And you've decided one of your New Year's resolutions is to finally lose some weight and get rid of your love handles. You know that by doing so, you'll look even hotter than you already are, you'll be faster on your hikes, and you won't think twice about taking your shirt off during an event.

As a Perfect Pace member, you may be thinking, "I don't get it... I exercise like a mad man multiple times during the week. I attend the crazy hard-core hikes with Perfect Pace. But I'm still carrying this gut that won't go away. Why am I not losing the weight?"

And don't blame the holidays for the weight gain. Contrary to the popular belief that the typical person gains five pounds during the holidays, the most reliable study to date published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that the average weight gain during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's is just less than a pound. Although those already overweight tend to gain more1.

The answer is diet.

Exercise alone does not necessarily shed off the pounds. In fact, it can actually have the opposite effect. This actually happened to me when training for my first marathon. I crossed the finish line looking like a cow and heavier than I was before. Although you may gain weight from new muscle being added to your body, you may also gain fat as well. The problem is that many of us who exercise a lot, tend to also eat more, a little too much more. We overcompensate on intake for all the calories we are losing from exercise. We rationalize I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, because I'm training for a marathon and I'm burning lots of calories. I'm going to eat this whole pie by myself because I'll burn it off during the Trilogy Challenge this weekend. I can eat this whole bag of chips because I just completed the Trilogy Challenge. Two days after the Trilogy Challenge... "I'm still sore and a super sized burger and fries would sure make me feel a lot better". It's important to indulge ourselves every now and then especially with achievements such as the Trilogy Challenge or running a marathon. The problem is when every now and then turns into most of the time.

Reward in moderation.

But all this exercise is making me soooo hungry. I'm starving. I want the super-size half pound bacon cheeseburger and fries. Well, then have the burger! But go for the quarter pound burger, no cheese, no bacon or mayo, and lose the fries. Instead start off with a dinner salad with lowfat dressing (or fork dip the dressing). But what about my chocolate shake? Do a diet coke with dinner instead, and then afterwards savor some soft-swirl chocolate non-fat yogurt. Now that you've gotten home from the event, you realize you're hungry again. "I need junk food!" Don't tear through that bag of chips. Popping some low fat butter popcorn in the microwave tastes just as good and smells good too.

Make better food choices.

Grilled - In
Fried - Out

Fresh - In
Processed - Out

Whole Grain - In
Junk Food - Out

Whole fruits and vegetables - In
Sauces - Out



Following is my typical diet which really works. I've lost 10 pounds in the last month on it, and this was during the holidays. I'm now back down to my Weight Watcher's lifetime membership goal weight.

Breakfast: A multi-vitamin, coffee with nonfat creamer and a couple splenda, a bowl of spoon size shredded wheat, with a sliced banana, non-fat milk, and a couple splenda.

Lunch: A salad with grilled chicken. Never pour your dressing. Order the dressing on the side, and dip your fork in the dressing before piercing the salad.

Afternoon: An apple or lowfat butter microwave popcorn

Dinner: Grilled fish, brown rice, grilled vegetables, and a glass of wine

Dessert: Non-fat chocolate pudding

Throughout the day: Lots of water

Exercise: 45 minute run every other day and a 10-mile day-hike on the weekend



Some tips on losing weight:

A diet high in fiber is important because it makes you feel full and less hungry. The fiber filled shredded wheat in the morning goes a long way in quenching the hunger all day. The brown rice instead of the white rice also helps in controlling late night grazing.

Always have vege tray items in your fridge. You can graze on veges (no ranch dip, but salsa is fine) to your heart's content. Seriously, no-guilt grazing. If I'm really hungry after coming home from work and dinner is still a couple hours away, I'll munch on vege sticks.

Keep a fruit bowl well stocked in your kitchen. Not only does it look pretty, but it also encourages you to partake from the fruit instead of the cookie jar. And skip the juices; eat the fruits whole.

Never go to the grocery store hungry, and while you're shopping, grab the non-fat or lean version of everything, instead of regular. Get the whole grain bread instead of the white, and look for the whole wheat pastas. Half your shopping cart should be fresh fruits and vegetables.

At fast food restaurants, go for the grilled chicken sandwich no mayo, a side-salad with low fat dressing, and a diet coke.

Many sit down restaurants typically serve twice as much food than you should devour in one setting. Eat slowly to give your stomach time to feel full before it IS FULL. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell you its full. Obviously a lot of damage can be done in 20 minutes. Put your fork down after each bite and chat with your friends. Eat just enough so that you do not feel hungry anymore and are satisfied. Do not eat to the point to where you feel stuffed or you're at the point to where you're really just grazing to finish off the plate. Pack the rest to take home for tomorrow's dinner or offer it to someone else at the table.

Some of you may have noticed in our post trip meals, that I typically order a dinner salad to start off with, but barely touch my fries. It's a weight loss strategy. By the time the entree comes, my stomach has already become slightly full from the salad. I'll have a couple of the fries, but I'll focus more on the burger. By the time I'm done with the burger, I would be full enough to forgo the rest of the fries.

At parties, I would just stick to the vege tray and drink light beer. If dinner was included, I would rehearse what I was going to load my plate with before I started loading. Fill your plate with 3/4 healthy and 1/4 indulgence. I would have lots of the salad and veges (at least half the plate), just a small portion of the entree if its high in fat. If it was sliced turkey or roast beef, I made myself a nice portion, but skipped the gravy and saucy potatoes. I even enjoyed a sliver of cheesecake.

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. Never think of it as a diet. Embrace it as a lifestyle change to a thinner you.



1 Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O'Neil PM, Sebring NG. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med 2000;342:861-7.