Best tips for maintaining weight after weight loss


Maintaining weight after weight loss - Discover Good NutritionYou’ve Lost the Weight – Now What?

I begged him not to leave me.  Right now, he needed me more than ever.  But I’d been through this before, and I knew he’d be back.  And I would be waiting for him….

His name was Frank.  He’d been my patient for nearly a year, and with plenty of guidance on my part, and a lot of hard work on his part, he was 60 pounds lighter.  But the day he hit his goal weight, he decided we were through.  In his mind, his weight lost task was accomplished – like something he could check off his ‘to do’ list – which meant he could push all thoughts of dieting aside and move on.  As we said our farewells, I left him with only this:  “there’s a reason they call it weight management, Frank.”

What I was trying to say to Frank is that once you’ve reached your weight goal, there’s still plenty of work to do.  Only about 1 in 6 people say they’ve held onto even small weight losses for as little as a year – which says that maintaining weight loss is a huge challenge for a lot of people.

If you don’t want that lost weight to come back and find you, you can’t just stop what you were doing.  When it comes right down to it, what you do in order to lose weight and what you need to do to keep it off are pretty much one and the same. So here are some tips for managing your weight successfully:

  • Remember what got you into trouble in the first place.  Was it too much fast food? Eating when you’re stressed? Too many sweets?  You know yourself well enough to know when you’re falling back into old habits – so catch yourself before a slip becomes a fall.
  • Continue to keep track of what you’re doing.  Keeping a food and exercise log and tracking your weight are great tools when you’re in the weight loss phase – but don’t stop there.   Self-monitoring is key to weight maintenance – you’re more likely to be successful if you continue to keep track.
  • Stay active.  Once you’ve lost weight, your body burns fewer calories than it did when you were heavier – so exercise plays a critical role in helping to burn calories and keep your weight off.
  • Recognize what your true, best and natural weight is.  In your efforts to lose, you may have ended up at a weight that’s actually below your body’s natural, healthy, weight – and it may be difficult to maintain. That’s not to say that you should let all your weight come back.   But sometimes you may find it easier to maintain a weight that’s slightly higher than you had intended.  Many of my clients tell me they’re happiest when they just live a healthy, active lifestyle and let their bodies find their own healthy, natural weight.  For them, it’s so much better than obsessing over every bite of food they eat – even if it means carrying a few extra pounds.
  • Reward yourself.  When you were losing, you probably found ways to give yourself a pat on the back for sticking to your plan – but don’t forget to reward yourself for continuing those new habits every day.
  • Remind yourself of how much you’ve accomplished.  Keeping photographs around is good – old ones to remind you of where you were, and new ones to remind you of how far you’ve come.  Remind yourself of all the positive steps you’ve taken to improve your health – and of how empowered you are, now that you’ve managed to take charge and manage your weight successfully.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

What’s a calorie?


What is a calorie? - advice from Herbalife

Calories.  We count them. We curse them.

And ask the average person to define ‘calorie’ and you’ll usually hear something like, ‘they’re things in food that if you eat too much of them, you’ll get fat’.   Even though we think of them this way, calories aren’t really ‘things’ in food – you can’t see them, touch them, pick them out or push them to the side of your plate.  Calories are actually a measure of the energy in your food, and no matter what activity your body is performing – whether it’s pumping blood or pumping iron -  it needs energy – in the form of calories – to make it happen.

You probably think of your food as fuel - and it is – but the energy that your body needs – in the form of calories – is locked within the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that make up the food that you eat.

It’s not until you fully process that food that the energy is released, and can be used to power activity within each and every cell of your body.  A calorie is simply a way of expressing the amount of energy that can be released from the foods that you eat.

Putting food into your body isn’t unlike what happens when you put gasoline in your car. Simply having gas in the tank isn’t going to make the car move forward.  The fuel has to go to the engine and ignite, which releases energy that allows the car to move. In much the same way, your digestive system acts as your body’s engine – it processes the fuel, and releases energy from your food – and your body then uses that energy to perform virtually every function it undertakes.

The amount of energy (calories) in a given food depends on how much protein, fat and carbohydrate it has.   Every gram of protein or carbohydrate in a food provides 4 calories of energy to the body.  But fats pack more than twice as much – 9 calories per gram – which is why fatty foods are often called “energy dense”.

When you think of calories as energy, it’s a bit easier to understand how calorie balance affects your body weight.  If the energy available to your body (from the foods that you eat) is matched with the energy your body uses to carry out all its functions, then your weight should stay stable. But if there’s more food energy available then your body can use, you’ll stash it in your ‘reserve tanks’ – those fatty deposits on your hips, belly and thighs.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

3 meals or 6: does it matter?


Snacking in and of itself isn’t bad, unless it’s pushing your calorie intake past the tipping point3 meals a day or 6 meals a day – does it matter?

Everybody eats.  Which is why people are so willing to throw in their two cents when it comes to any nutrition debate. One thorny issue has to do with meal frequency and weight control.  There are those who ‘just say no’ to snacking – the ones who restrict themselves to three meals a day, period.  In their view, snacking is simply a bad habit that can pile on the pounds.  In the opposite corner are those who say that small, frequent meals will help control hunger, so it’s better to eat five or six times a day.

Is one strategy better than the other?  Research has yet to give us a definitive answer, leading one1 to conclude that whether you eat three times a day or six, “the question of whether there is a health benefit … will ultimately depend on how much energy is consumed, as opposed to how often or how regularly one eats” (italics mine).  In other words, if it’s weight loss you’re after, the bottom line is keeping your calorie intake in check.  Snacking in and of itself isn’t bad, unless it’s pushing your calorie intake past the tipping point.

If you look at what many people consider ‘snack foods’ – greasy, salty, sugary packaged snacks like chips, cookies and candy – it’s easy to see why they’d adopt the ‘no snacking’ approach to weight management.   If snacking = junk food, then yes, processed goodies can dump a lot of calories into your system in no time.  Some people avoid snacking because they find it hard enough to just to curb their calories at mealtimes.  If they find it hard to control what they eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner, they figure snacks will just add insult to injury.

Of course, there are plenty of healthy foods to snack on, too – which is just one reason that I side with the small, frequent meal approach.  It’s a practical issue – the more often you eat, the more opportunities you have to meet your nutritional needs.

Let’s say you’re trying to get 7 to 10 fruit and vegetable servings a day, a couple of servings of dairy, and you have protein needs to meet, too.  That might be hard to do if you try to distribute all that food over just three meals.  But if you use snacks as an opportunity to work in more healthy fruits and vegetables, or maybe some calcium-rich yogurt, or an additional  portion of protein, it’s a lot easier to hit your daily nutritional targets.

Here’s another thing: people who eat less frequently can convince themselves that they’ve ‘hardly eaten all day’ – giving themselves license to do pretty much whatever they want when mealtimes roll around.  Or, they assume that eating huge – but less frequent – meals will ‘hold them’ longer.  That rarely happens. They usually end up snacking anyway.

Frequent feedings can really help with portion control.  If you know you’ll be eating more often, you can teach yourself to be satisfied with less every time you eat, since you know you’ll be eating again in a few hours.

That’s the beauty of eating healthfully.  High fiber fruits, veggies and whole grains have relatively few calories per bite, and low-fat protein foods help to satisfy hunger.  That means you can eat every few hours, and still have quantity and quality – without spending huge amounts of calories.

1Parks EJ and McCrory MA.  Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81:3-4

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

Fresh raspberries and blueberries


My first crop of berries this season

Our first berry crop of the year - California offers up a great climate for year-round gardening.

My husband and I have small farm outside of Los Angeles that we’ve been nurturing for the last few years.  Just this week we harvested our very first crop of fresh blueberries and raspberries.

These delicious fruits are nutrition powerhouses – full of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium and fiber – and we’re enjoying them just as they are for dessert, on top of our yogurt, and in our protein shakes.

What is constipation?


What is constipation and how to tell if you are constipated?Are you constipated or just irregular? Learn about constipation and the steps you can take to promote healthy bowel movements.  Everyone has his or her own pattern of  “regularity” – it might be every day, or it might be three times a week

I’ve seen literally hundreds of clients in my career, and while I can’t claim to remember every single one, there are a few I’m not likely to soon forget.

Mr. M was a short, slightly built, elderly gentleman who came to my office each week wearing the same plaid sport coat, bowtie and hat.  He complained that his bowels weren’t working properly. And to prove his point, he’d pull from his pocket a spreadsheet – with full details of everything he’d ‘expelled’ the previous week. Mrs. R had similar concerns… but instead of a spreadsheet, she brought me pictures.

Truth be told, this was just fine with me, because what these clients were trying to tell me was that they had questions about whether or not they were ‘normal’ – and they were looking to me to provide some answers.

When I ask clients about their bowel function, most of them will tell me everything is fine.  But plenty of them do say that they’re ‘irregular’ or they’re ‘constipated’.  So it’s worth asking what really defines ‘regularity’ or ‘constipation’.  Is twice a day too much?  Is twice a week too infrequent?

Here’s the lowdown.  The majority of people think that anything other than a daily bowel movement is just plain wrong.  If they go every other day – even if it’s a ‘smooth move’ – they’ll say they’re constipated.   The thing is, constipation isn’t just about how often you go (or not) – it also has to do with how difficult it is for you to get the job done.

If you’re healthy, constipation is usually suspected if you’ve gone three days or more without a bowel movement.  By that time, enough water has been absorbed from the waste material in your gut that it’s likely to be hard and compact – and, therefore, difficult to pass.  But three or more days isn’t a hard and fast rule for defining constipation – you could have difficulty going after only two days, too. On the other hand, there are those who routinely ‘go’ only twice a week – with no difficulty whatsoever – and, rather than calling them constipated, we’d say they’re ‘regular’.

That’s because the range of ‘regularity’ among healthy people is huge – anywhere from three movements a day to three a week.  Even though some people’s bowels move like clockwork, most people don’t go at the same time every day, or even with the same frequency day in and day out.   That makes sense if you think about it – you don’t eat exactly the same foods every day, or at the same time.  Things like diet, exercise, hydration, stress, travel and medications can all affect how quickly or slowly waste material travels through your system.

Even though there’s a wide range of what we call ‘regularity’, the strategies for promoting healthy bowel movements are really the same for everyone.  Include plenty of high fiber fruits, veggies and whole grains in your diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get regular exercise.

And when nature calls, be sure to listen.  People often put off visits to the restroom – they’ll say they’re too busy and can’t take the time just then.  Yes, the urge often passes if you ignore it – but the longer you wait, the less likely it is that you’ll have a ‘smooth move’.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife. Herbalife markets products for digestive health and digestive cleansing.

How to plan quick and healthy meals


Beautiful Young Woman cooking fresh VegetablesIt’s easier to stick to a healthy diet when you use these tips for quick and nutritious meal planning.

It seems to me there are two extremes when it comes to meal planning. There are people who never plan – the ones who prefer to “wait and see” what they feel like eating. They’re also the ones who, understandably, don’t have much discipline when it comes to sticking to a diet plan. On the other hand, there are those whose meal planning is just a tad too routine.
When I was in high school, my best friend’s mom stuck to the same menu week after week – Monday was chicken, Tuesday was spaghetti… you get the idea. The only time I’d accept an invitation for dinner was on Sunday – or, “surprise night”. Somewhere in between these extremes, though, lies a healthy approach to meal planning that doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. So if your idea of meal planning means choosing between sausage or pepperoni on your pizza, listen up – here are some pointers that might help.

Keep a stash of quick, healthy recipes you can turn to. Simple and nutritious recipes are easy to find in cookbooks, magazines and on the web, and when you’ve got a couple dozen to pick from, you can rotate them over a few weeks and your dinners won’t become too routine.

Always have healthy staples on hand. Keep veggies, fruits and seafood in the freezer and keep your pantry stocked with staples like whole grains, canned beans, tuna and tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, spices and herbs. With these items on hand, you’ve got the start of a healthy soup, curry or pasta dish that you can throw together in no time.

Look for convenient shortcuts you can use. Frozen veggies can be substituted for fresh, and convenience items like prewashed salad greens or precut vegetables can really save you prep time. Whole cooked chickens or ready-seasoned meats from the grocery store are also great time-savers.

Prep once, cook twice (or more). If a recipe calls for half of a chopped onion or bell pepper, don’t stop there – keep chopping, and stash the rest for another day. As long as you’re browning ground turkey for spaghetti sauce, why not brown extra to use in tacos or stuffed peppers tomorrow? Make extra brown rice or quinoa and freeze for another meal. The grains stay moist and reheat well in the microwave.

One-dish meals generally combine your protein, your vegetable and your starch all in one dish – they’re healthy, they’re balanced… and you’ll have a lot fewer pots and pans to wash.

If you’re organized enough to plan your meals for a few days, it does make life a lot easier. Once you’ve chosen your recipes, you can make your shopping list for the week. When you’ve got your menus down and your ingredients on hand, the meal-planning battle is practically won.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

Hunger Signals: Learn to Listen to Your Body

Keep track of your hunger patterns using a diary.

Our bodies send clear signals telling us when to eat and when to stop—but are we listening?

I was talking with a new client the other day and I asked her to describe her appetite. She thought for a minute and then told me, “I can’t really say that I ever get hungry.” She ate frequently throughout the day (maybe a little too frequently), and on a fairly set schedule. So she relied on the clock—not her hunger—to tell her when it was time to eat. And when I asked her how she knew when she’d had enough and that it was time to stop eating, she was completely stumped. “I don’t have a clue,” she said. “I’ve never really thought about it.”

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 best ways to help you control hunger

When I ask questions like this, what I hope to hear someone say is that they eat when they feel hungry and stop eating when they feel satisfied—not stuffed—and their hunger is gone. But when clients tell me that they don’t get hungry—or that the signal to stop eating is that “there’s no food left” —it tells me that when their body is speaking to them, they’re just not listening.

Your body sends clear and unmistakable signals when it needs attention.

You know what it means when your mouth is dry, your eyelids are heavy or your bladder is full. And while you might be able to ignore those signals for a little while, sooner or later you’ll be driven to drink something, get some sleep, or make a trip to the restroom.

If you think of hunger and fullness the same way—as clear signals from your body that it’s time to eat or time to stop—it can really help to regulate how much food you eat. To be fair, not everyone feels hunger quite the same way—most feel a little rumble in the stomach, but some get a little lightheaded or their thinking gets fuzzy when their blood sugar dips between meals. But these are still very clear signals coming from within: your body is telling you that it’s getting low on fuel. And when your stomach begins to fill, nerve impulses are sent to the brain, telling you that you’re satisfied, at which point, it’s appropriate to stop.

When we’re thirsty, we generally will drink, not to excess, but until our bodies tell us that we’re not thirsty any more. But when you eat, do you stop eating when you’re not hungry anymore? Or do you stop because you’re stuffed? Or do you stop because your plate is empty, or because you’ve scraped the last helping out of the serving plate?

Learning to recognize your body’s natural signals of hunger and satisfaction—and responding appropriately—are skills worth practicing.

Try keeping a food diary for a couple of days. Each time you eat, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 means you’re weak and starving, and 10 means you’re so stuffed you almost feel sick) both before you start eating and after you’ve finished. Ideally, you want to start eating when your hunger is at about a 3 or 4—your stomach is growling a little and you feel ready to eat—and you want to stop when you’re at about a 5 or 6, which means that you’re satisfied and pleasantly full.

It’s amazing how this little exercise can help to put you back in touch with your body. When your body starts to tell you it needs fuel, don’t ignore the signals. If your usual habit is to let yourself get too hungry (a 1 or 2 on your hunger scale), you’re likely to overeat (hitting a 9 or 10). Train yourself to eat just enough so that you’re comfortable, satisfied and no longer hungry—not until you’re stuffed.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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7 Healthy Foods Your Kids Will Love

There’s more to life than eating your vegetables.

Kids can be picky eaters, but here’s a short list of nutrition-packed, healthy foods that most will enjoy.

It’s always funny to me when people ask me how my kids ate when they were little. I’m sure many of them think that since I do what I do, my kids must have been perfect eaters––or that I had some special tricks up my sleeve that made them beg for broccoli and other healthy foods. Truth be told, my kids were no different from most other kids. They had their likes and dislikes. And they’d go on food jags where they’d want to eat the same thing every single day.

Naturally, it did concern me that their nutritional needs weren’t always being met. But there were several really healthy foods that they were almost always willing to eat. I just downplayed the “healthy” part, because once you tell kids something is “good for you,” that’s one of the surest paths to rejection.

So, here’s a list of my top-rated foods for kids––they’re good, and good for them.
Tuna fish – Many kids turn their noses up at fish, but they’ll eat tuna salad. Like all fish, tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in protein. Try mixing your canned tuna with mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise for a healthier tuna salad, and serve with some whole grain crackers––kids love to make their own little cracker sandwiches.

Smoothies –

A lot of kids fall short when it comes to meeting their calcium needs, and many don’t eat enough fruit, so smoothies can help fill both gaps. They’re quick and easy to make, and they’re great when things get rushed in the morning. Kids love to make their own. If you’ve got low-fat milk, protein powder and some frozen fruit at hand, your kids can take it from there.

Carrots –

Kids and vegetables often don’t mix, but sweet, crunchy, raw carrots are an exception. Carrots are rich in beta carotene to help support healthy-looking skin and eyesight, and they’re also a good source of fiber. They’re fun to eat plain or dipped in fat-free ranch, salsa or guacamole.

Oatmeal –

It takes just a few minutes to cook up some rolled oats, which are naturally rich in fiber and B-vitamins. Try making it with nonfat milk or soy milk rather than water to boost calcium and protein. Then sweeten lightly, and stir in some diced fruit like bananas or apples.

Strawberries –

Kids love strawberries because they taste so good. They’re also packed with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. When fresh berries are unavailable, use the frozen whole berries in smoothies or mixed with yogurt.

Nuts –

Instead of chips, offer kids nuts to satisfy their craving for something crunchy and salty. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts or pistachios provide beneficial fats, protein and minerals like zinc and magnesium.

Beans –

Beans do double nutrition duty for kids. They’re not only a good source of iron, but they’re a great fiber source, too. Most kids will eat canned beans seasoned with a touch of ketchup, barbecue sauce or salsa. You can also try bean soup, or whirl some beans in the blender with a little salt, lemon and olive oil for a tasty hummus dip for raw veggies.

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Fruits vs. Veggies: Which One Is Better for You?

Fruits and vegetables have vital nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables offer up natural plant compounds that help keep the body healthy, and variety is the key.

If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, you might think that you can make up for not eating them by eating lots of different fruits instead. It’s easy to see why. We almost always mention them in the same breath (“eat plenty of fruits and veggies”). Since they’re healthy plant foods, it’s natural to assume that they’re more or less interchangeable in terms of providing the nutrients the body needs.

To some extent that’s true. You can get your vitamin C just as easily from berries as from broccoli; potassium lurks in both beets and bananas. But fruits and veggies also offer up a dizzying and varied array of phytonutrients––natural plant compounds that can promote good health. So, getting the broadest range of phytonutrients is a lot more likely if you’re eating both fruits and vegetables.

Phytonutrients are responsible for the flavors and colors in fruits and vegetables. When you think about fruits and vegetables more from the standpoint of the huge range of flavors and hues they provide––and not so much as simply sources of vitamins and minerals––you can begin to appreciate how dissimilar they really are.

Berries and broccoli, for example, may look similar when it comes to their vitamin C content, but their phytonutrient profiles couldn’t be more different. Berries get their red-purple color from certain compounds that are a lot more widespread in fruits than in vegetables. On the other hand, there are different phytonutrients that are responsible for the strong odors found in broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. But you won’t find these smelly compounds in fruits. Another natural pigment, lycopene, gives a rich red color to fruits like tomatoes (yes, it’s a fruit), pink grapefruit and guava––but you’d be hard-pressed to find much in most vegetables.

I meet plenty of people who assume that eating fruits or vegetables is just as good as eating fruits and vegetables. So, I often use these examples to encourage them to get more variety in their diet. If this sounds like you, think of the hurdles in your way and how you might get over them.

Fewer people dislike fruits than veggies, and it’s often an issue of texture. If you don’t like the soft texture of ripe fruit, try whirling fresh or frozen fruit in the blender and add to smoothies or use as a topping on cottage cheese or yogurt. If some fruits are too tart for you, try the sweetest varieties. Tangerines, for example, are often sweeter than most oranges.

If you don’t like the texture of cooked veggies, try them raw. If strong flavors keep you from eating veggies, play around with seasonings, like herbs, garlic or citrus. You can also sneak them into soups, pasta sauces, casseroles and other healthy recipes. Or, cook them until tender-crisp, then chill and toss into a salad. That way you won’t pick up their strong odors in the steam.

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Food Safety: Expiration Dates on Food Labels

Food safety - Old food & expiration dates | Susan Bowerman | Discover Good NutritionI have to admit that I’m a little bit overzealous when it comes to food safety, and I take the expiration dates stamped on food labels and packages pretty seriously. Sometimes too much so… If I have some raw chicken in my fridge that’s going to ‘expire’ the next day, I won’t eat it. I know it’s safe, but in my mind, that chicken is on its death bed and doesn’t belong in my stomach.

At the same time, I’ll keep mayonnaise in my fridge until it’s gone – and at the rate I use it, that could be past the expiration date – and I don’t give it a second thought. But if you fear old mayonnaise the way I fear expiring chicken, there’s no need – as long as mayo is properly refrigerated, it doesn’t really go bad (by that I mean, it won’t make you sick).

Confused? You’re not alone. Sorting out the dates on food labels isn’t easy. Some people ignore them altogether, others take them a little too seriously (like tossing out ‘expired’ bottled water).

You’ve probably noticed the “sell-by” dates on perishables, like meat, fish, poultry and milk. Once that date passes, stores are supposed to pull these items from their shelves, and most people assume that the food shouldn’t be eaten after that date, either. But that isn’t necessarily so.

Just because the sell-by date has passed on your carton of milk, it can easily stay sweet and tasty (and safe) for a week or so after that – provided it’s been properly stored in the refrigerator. Eggs can easily stay fresh and safe for 3-5 weeks after you buy them – which is likely to be long after the date stamp on the carton. Even ground beef, which is highly perishable, is safe to eat for a day or two after you buy it – even if the ‘sell by’ date has passed.

Then there’s the “use by”, “best by” and “best before” dates – which aren’t even expiration or safety dates at all. In fact, they’re not even required on the label. Manufacturers put them there to let you know that after that date, the quality of the food might decline. So you might see a change in texture or color, but the food is still perfectly safe to eat. Keep ketchup around long enough and it’ll turn brown – your burger won’t be as colorful, but it’s still perfectly safe to eat.

Mold is another story. If your bread is decorated with fuzzy green spots, or your lunch meat is coated with gray fur, it’s got to go. But if you find a little spot of mold on firm veggies like cabbage, peppers or carrots, or on hard cheese, you don’t need to throw it out. Just cut about an inch all around the moldy spot, and then it’s okay to eat the rest.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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