Balancing Act – The secret to weight loss

A tip for the scale: Totally depriving yourself is not the answer to weight loss.

If you are one of those people who feel certain foods call out to you, you are not alone. Many of us experience that cacophony all the time. It usually emanates from foods that are not necessarily the healthiest, but they sure taste good!

The old adage that we should eat to live versus live to eat is a wise one. But like everything in life, there must be a balance. Studies have shown that most successful weight-loss stories involve people eating what they love occasionally and not totally depriving themselves.

In the U.S. alone, about 70 percent of people are overweight. So weight management is a huge health concern, and the holidays do beckon with foods that would tempt even the most disciplined. And when we think of holiday parties, there are usually beverages available.

While alcohol is fat free and low in carbs, there are calories to consider. Even if you are careful about your alcohol consumption, all drinks are not created equal on the dieting scale and some choices are better than others. If you’re going to imbibe, wine is the most calorie-friendly selection with a typical 20 calories per ounce. Some bottles of beer contain nearly 200 calories. Light beer would be the best choice if you are a beer drinker. A sampling of 1.5 ounces of hard liquor will generally fall in the 100 calorie range. But keep in mind that is just the alcohol, not the calories from whatever mix you may choose for your drink.

Where to begin? Here are some excellent weight-management tips:

  1. Write down everything you eat.
    Doing so increases your chances for weight loss. Studies show people underestimate how much they eat.
  2. Turn off the TV. Television and other screens encourage us to be sedentary. Study participants who cut their TV time in half burned an extra 120 calories a day.
  3. Eat more fiber. Americans only eat about half the recommended daily amount they need. Get more fiber from whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  4. Drink more water. Two cups of water before each meal fills you up and may lessen your appetite, which may help you shed more pounds.
  5. Step on the scale. Individuals who weigh themselves more frequently (at least weekly) are more successful at weight management.
  6. Find a buddy. Team up with a household member or join a support group for better results.
  7. Toss the junk. Discard any food or drinks that would interfere with your weight-loss plan.
  8. Sleep well. Women who sleep under five hours a night are 32 percent more likely to have major weight gain than those who sleep more than seven hours.
  9. Check your meds. Many medications can lead to weight gain—ask your health care provider if you’re concerned.
  10. Simmer down. Stress can increase your risk of weight gain. Fortunately, exercise helps both manage stress and promote weight loss.

While working on a weight-management routine, be mindful that science shows a strong connection between excess abdominal fat and some of our most serious diseases. People with wide girths often have large amounts of “hidden” visceral fat around their internal organs, which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Belly fat alarms health experts because it can produce inflammatory substances that promote these diseases. Though overweight people have too much belly fat, even normal-weight adults are at risk if they carry excess pounds around the middle. So what is “excess” fat?

It’s a waist measurement of more than: 40 inches for men or 
35 inches for women.

To measure weight circumference: Run a tape measure around your torso just above your navel.

The good news is that belly fat appears to be the first to go when you lose weight. Santa Claus best be careful.

Perils of Processed Food

For centuries, people have “processed” foods, from pickling cucumbers in vinegar to sweetening fruit jam with sugar. Thousands of food additives are used to maintain or improve the freshness, taste, texture, appearance or nutritional value of products. Some are familiar, such as vanilla or yeast, while others have hard-to-pronounce names.

Federal agencies determine whether an additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). But safe isn’t the same as desirable: Many processed foods contain added fat, sugar and salt, which can contribute to health problems.

In addition, certain sensitive individuals may experience negative reactions. For example, someone who is allergic to soy may have a reaction to spy-derived lecithin or hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

On the Radar:

  1. Sulfites can trigger asthma attacks.
  2. People with phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid foods and 
beverages sweetened with aspartame.
  3. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrates can cause 
headaches and chest pain.
  4. Artificial fats can cause an upset stomach.
  5. Although controversial, some parents insist that artificial colors and flavors cause hyperactivity in their kids.

Best approach? Read labels carefully and call the product manufacturer if you have concerns. If you have unpleasant symptoms after consuming certain foods or beverages, keep a log to determine common additives. If you have a health condition, ask your doctor or health care provider if you might react to particular additives (for example, tyramine in cheese for migraine sufferers).