Category Archives: Diet

MySisterSaid Keep a Food Journal and Lose Weight

Putting pen to paper may help you lose weight!

Putting pen to paper may help you lose weight!

As Julie Andrews said, “Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start…”  For me, getting on track with losing or maintaining my weight always comes back to keeping a food journal. The fact of the matter is that taking this one relatively easy step can help most people gain a bit more control over what, when and how much they eat.

A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics backs this up. The study found that the women who consistently kept a food journal lost on average 6 more pounds over a 6-month period than those who kept a journal more sporadically or did not journal at all.

Sounds like a no brainer to me – I write down what I eat, and I lose weight! Just the act of writing down everything you eat begins the process of making you mindful of what and how much you are eating.

The trick is being consistent. Figure out what format will be easiest for you to follow  – are you a notebook and pen type, or do you want the latest app for your smart phone? The one that is best is simply the one that you will do most consistently.

For a long time, I kept a small notebook and pen in my purse. In addition to jotting down what I ate, I also ranked my hunger level from 0-10. Yes, I have been known to eat when I was absolutely not hungry! I also tried to put in a quick description of how I was feeling: content, tired, anxious, etc. While that isn’t vitally important, I do think it helps us get in touch with our feelings and how they may be affecting what and how much we eat. You may be surprised at the patterns you see over time.

Eventually, I loaded the Lose It! app on my phone, and while it took some getting used to, I found it to be really effective when trying to lose weight. I especially like the graphs that showed the downward trend in my weight! Other apps that have positive reviews include MyFitnessPal and CalorieCount. All three are great apps for tracking exercise as well, which I find helps with motivation.

Whether you put pen to paper, or use an app, try to document what you eat shortly after eating it so you don’t forget anything. And last but not least, be brutally honest and record everything (yes, that means the sleeve of Thin Mints). Now that we survived “Snowzilla” and my kids and I are back to school, I’m back to journaling. I’m looking at it as a mid-winter resolution. Why not give it a try–what have you got to lose?



MySisterSaid Do You Follow the Food Rules?

Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much 

This thoughtful book of Food Rules really simplifies things.

This thoughtful book of Food Rules really simplifies things.

Have you heard of Michael Pollan, one of the gurus of the healthy eating movement?  A dear friend just gave me a beautifully bound and illustrated special edition of his book “Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual,” and if you aren’t familiar with his work, it boils down to just three things: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.

The first rule,Eat Food”, sounds almost insultingly simple, but when you dig a little deeper, it really isn’t.  In addition to healthy, real food, the supermarket is full thousands of edible food-like substances. They are highly processed, often derived from corn and soy, and are chock full of chemical additives.  Sound yummy, don’t they?!?  We are continually bombarded with exposure to and advertising for these edible food-like substances.  Take a moment next time you do your grocery shopping and really look at what you are buying and what the ingredients are….wouldn’t you rather eat food?

The second rule, Mostly Plants, is one of those that intimidates gals like me from Oklahoma.  We grew up knowing that beef was what’s for dinner, and we’ll take ours medium rare, thank you.  But even this Okie is smart enough to read the writing on the wall. Populations who eat a Western Diet, one full of meat, processed foods, added fats and sugars, and lacking in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are literally killing themselves.  Here’s a sobering quote from the book: Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80% of the cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers are linked to this diet.  While the quote is sobering, it also leaves room for hope.  Shifting our diet by adding more of the healthy stuff and cutting back on the less healthy stuff is doable, and it will make a difference!

The third rule,Not too Much, is a topic many struggle with. We celebrate with food, commiserate with food, and everything in between involves food!  What it comes down to is we ought to eat only when we are hungry.  I know I can’t be the only one who has difficulties with this — food is tasty and comforting. One of his recommendations is to eat fewer snacks, and make sure the snacks you eat include a serving of fruit or vegetables. Many of us also have a tendency to equate a snack with a treat, but they aren’t the same!  A treat is an occasional piece of birthday cake or an ice cream cone on a sunny day at the beach.  A snack is something you need now and then to tide you over until the next meal.

MySisterSaid are you a Food Rule follower?  Which Food Rule do you find most challenging, and what successes have you had in changing your eating patterns?

MySisterSaid Do You Have a Holiday Game Plan?

Turkey-with-footballJust as football coaches this time of year are thinking about their game plans, I’ve been thinking a lot about my holiday game plan for eating healthfully and staying fit.  Every year, I read tips for maintaining my weight, and I try to be cognizant of them as I negotiate the field of dietary land mines I traverse from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  From buffets to candy dishes, to seasonal cocktails and pumpkin pie, the list is long!  I recently read two ideas that I hadn’t heard before, and I’m adding them to my holiday game plan:

Start early to fill up on fiber: Starting a few days before the holiday, eat a half-cup serving of high-fiber, low-sugar cereal just prior to two or three of your meals.  According to the latest Health and Nutrition Letter from Tufts University, this satiety-boost will make you feel more satisfied and in control, and that will help you want to eat less.

Gain control back quickly:  Once you’ve eaten that big meal, it’s easy to head down the slippery slope to one indulgence after another.  The experts at Tufts recommend immediately working towards recovering your satiety.  Starting with breakfast the next day, put yourself on a high-fiber regimen.  Incorporate high-fiber cereals, legumes, or low-carb high-fiber breads into each meal and snack.  Taking care of your satiety will help you lose the desire to overeat.

In addition to these two new tips, I also revisited some that are tried and true.  While these are recommendations most of us have heard, I find reading through and visualizing myself doing them yields better results:

Don’t go to a party hungry: Starving yourself all day in anticipation of eating more at a party tends to backfire and you end up hungry and out of control once you get there

Try to fit in an extra 15 minutes of exercise each day:  It will not only burn some calories, but will help keep you mindful of your body and how it feels

If you drink alcohol, be sure to alternate with water:  You’ll drink half as much alcohol, stay hydrated and make better choices

Move the candy dish as far away as possible:  Studies show that even moving it a few feet farther away can make a difference as to how much you consume

Volunteer to make a healthy dish to take to a social event:  Be sure to make something enticing and make that the first thing you put on your plate

Fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables:  Scope out the buffet table before you decide what to eat, then load up on the healthiest choices first

So whip out your turkey platter, and string up the sparkly lights, but find time to make your holiday game plan.  Think how much better you’ll feel about yourself heading into the new year knowing that you had a great time, and that you were in control!







MySisterSaid Try These Ways to Cut Calorie Density

Soup with veggies--upping satisfaction while dropping calories!

Satisfy your hunger with veggie based soup!

I’m always on the lookout for little shifts in eating habits that might help me lose or maintain my weight.  Most of us know that reducing calories is an important component to any weight loss plan, but I hadn’t heard the term “calorie density” until recently.  Calorie density is defined as the number of calories a food has per ounce, and eating foods with lower calorie density can help us lose weight. Think about eating an apple, which weighs around 6 oz and has about 95 calories.  On the other hand, think about eating 6 oz of apple pie, which has about 450 calories.  That’s quite a big difference in calorie density–choosing the apple instead of the pie saves over 350 calories.

A recent article in Appetite (what a great name for a journal!) described how scientists designed studies to see the effects of decreasing calorie density.  One day a week for four weeks, researchers provided all the food for the volunteers.  On those days, they decreased calorie density by about 20 percent by either adding less fat, increasing fruits and vegetables or adding more water to the food (think soup vs casserole).

The results of making these relatively simple changes were pretty dramatic.  Volunteers ate about 400 fewer calories on days when their entrees had less fat, roughly 300 fewer calories on the days more fruits and vegetables were added to the entree, and nearly 230 fewer calories on days when the entrees had extra water.  Making one or more of those changes on most days could have a big impact on weight loss over time.

This is the perfect time of year to add more broth based soup with veggies to the menu–try this delicious Roasted Tomato-Bread Soup from Eating Well magazine .  My Sister Said…what ways will you find to become less dense when it comes to calories?