Category Archives: Weight loss

7 Tips for a Better 2017

The following originally appeared on Jan. 5, 2011. It reappears today, tweaked and updated.

Move more and eat better in 2017 using these seven simple strategies:

1. Mix it up. The big trend in fitness isn’t one thing, it’s everything. Avoid drudgery, avoid stressing the same muscles and work your entire body by doing a variety of workouts. “Incorporating several different forms of exercise in a training program can be an excellent way to develop the various components of fitness,” according to the American Council on Exercise. If your goal is to lose weight, varying your exercise regimen — walking one day, lifting weights the next, taking a Zumba class after that — keeps your muscles from becoming too efficient at any one exercise and thus burning fewer calories.

2. Find what works. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. Think, personal trainers advise, about what you like to do, or what you liked to do in the past. Did you love riding your bike as a kid? A preponderance of fun-to-ride bikes — from the aptly named “comfort” bikes to speedier and more aggressive urban bikes — has flooded the market, and with nearly 150 miles of greenway in the Triangle, it’s easy for the grown-up you to rekindle your childhood love. Or maybe you get so caught up in the joy of dance you don’t realize you’ve had a good workout until the following morning. Zumba, dance exercise with a Latin zing, and Nia, a marriage of dance, the martial arts and the “healing arts,”  are two popular dance options.

3. Eat smart, eat simple. It’s a paradox, but the more we learn about food, the poorer we seem to eat. Good-eating advocate and author Michael Pollan writes in his latest book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” “for all the scientific and pseudoscientific food baggage we’ve taken on in recent years, we still don’t know what we should be eating.” Pollan, whose “In Defense of Food” and 

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” read more

Happy, Healthy New Year: Weight loss basics


We’ll spend the first few weeks of 2013 looking at issues of particular relevance to many of you as the new year unfolds. Today, the first working day of the year, we start our Happy, Healthy New Year — heretofore shorthanded to HHNY — segments with what’s likely at the top of most of your lists: losing weight. I originally wrote the following for the Charlotte Observer, where it appeared last month. Click on each section entry for more information.

You want to lose 25 pounds and live a healthier lifestyle, but do you know why?

If the reason is simply because you think you should, then your resolve to lose weight in 2013 is already in deep trouble.

“It’s all about determining goals,” says Julianna P. Canfield, director of fitness for YWCA Central Carolinas. “Why do you want a healthier lifestyle? Is if for an upcoming trip? That’s good, but what is your next goal?” To keep pace with your kids? To not fit into your pants like sausage into casing? Your goals, she says, need to be specific and sustainable.

“It needs to become a behavior,” adds Dr. John Tomcho with the Carolinas Weight Management & Wellness Center in Charlotte. “It need to be something you can embrace, something you can picture yourself doing 10 years from now.”

And, your goal needs to be realistic.

“Some people think they should get back to the weight they were at 21,” says Tomcho. “But even reducing your weight by 10 or 15 percent, you’ll see a lot of health benefits.”

Now that we’ve got the big picture out of the way, what other advice do Canfield and Tomcho have for dropping weight — and keeping it off — in the new year?

Avoid fad diets. “Take a balanced approach to your diet,” says Tomcho. Diets that eliminate all  carbs or fats may result in short-term weight loss but aren’t sustainable, says Tomcho. While that balance varies from person to person, you should shoot for 30 percent of your diet to be protein (which will make you feel full longer), 45-50 percent should be from healthy carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), and 15-20 percent from unsaturated fats (nuts, avocados, fish, certain oils).

Avoid sugary drinks. Fruit drinks, sodas, sweet tea all can quickly pile on the calories. “Switch to flavored water, with or without bubbles,” suggests Tomcho.

Pace your weight loss. You may want to lose weight as quickly as possible but losing too much too quickly can be unhealthy. A general rule of thumb, endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to lose no more than two pounds per week.
Be accountable. When it comes to New Years’ resolutions, Canfield says, “People are all gung-ho in January, then fizzle.” You’re less likely to fizzle, studies have found, if you’ve shared your goals with others. To that end, the YWCA will launch a program in February that will match people by age, the time they like to work out, the exercises they like to do, among other things. Then, says Canfield, they’ll be encouraged to workout together and keep in touch to monitor one another’s progress.

Keep a journal. “Studies have shown that an important factor in watching your diet is journaling,” says Tomcho. Recording what you eat, in particular, makes you conscious of exactly how much you’re eating and how many calories you’re consuming. Also record your activities and how you’re feeling. The latter can help you in figuring out better ways to …

… deal with stress. When we get stressed we have a tendency to eat. A lot, and typically not healthy foods. Not a good response, says Tomcho. Rather, he suggest you first figure out what stresses you then try to avoid it. Since that’s not always possible (unless, say, you can stop going to work or battling rush-hour traffic) figure out another way to deal with the stress. “Go for a walk, write in your journal, talk to a friend,” says Tomcho. “Anything to keep you from eating.”

Get active. Moving is key, say both Tomcho and Canfield. However, a lot of people think that once they start exercising they can eat anything. “Most people really don’t burn a lot of calories exercising,” says Tomcho, especially when they’re first starting out. But being and staying active is vital toward establishing healthy, long-term habits. Plus, exercising releases endorphins which can help you deal with the stress that causes you to eat in the first place.

Mix it up. Part of the February fizzle Canfield referred to results from people becoming bored with doing the same exercise over and over. Not only do you get bored but your body gets used to the routine and becomes more efficient at performing the exercise; as a result, you burn fewer calories. To combat the double whammy of boredom, for instance, the YWCA, for instance, offers an 11-week Winter Boot Camp in which no two workouts are the same.

Don’t deprive yourself. If you grew up in a house where your mom was constantly surviving on cottage cheese and grapefruit, you’re likely of a mind that healthy eating is boring eating. Not so, says Canfield. One of the YWCA’s programs aimed at New Year’s Resolutioners, New Year, New You, includes a grocery store tour and a cooking class conducted by a local business specializing in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

“You’re going through a healthy lifestyle change,” says Canfield. “The key is to do things in moderation.” Of that piece of cake or slice of pie, she advises, “You can have it as long as you’re paring it with with good diet and exercise.”

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More info

  • For more information on the healthy living classes offered through the YWCA of the Carolinas, go here.
  • For information on recommended dietary guidelines, check out the USDA’s Food Pyramid here.
  • For an overview of healthy weight loss, check out what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has to say on the subject:
  • read more

    The family that plays together stays in shape together

    A family 5K can be enchanting for the kids.

    The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, sponsored by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation and dedicated to battling childhood obesity, has issued eight ways families can get fit together. We list those eight ways below and go one step further, suggesting specific ways you can make this happen NOW! Meaning this week now.

    Take a walk. Stroll together after a family meal or walk around the mall when it’s cold or raining. Just walking in your neighborhood is great exercise; as we mentioned yesterday, living in North Carolina means your neighborhood may be a little more interesting than you think. And if your kids think walking is boring, bring along some props to liven things up. When our kids were smaller, we’d often set out for a neighborhood “walk” with skateboards, rollerblades, a Ripstik and a Trikke, swapping toys along the way.
    Choose an outing. Spend a weekend afternoon going to a pool, skating rink or basketball court. Right now, with winterlike temperatures, a good bet in this part of the country is a visit to your local North Carolina State Park. At Crowders Mountain near Charlotte, for instance, you can scramble about at The Boulders access area. In Wilmington there’s Carolina Beach, where there’s a unique collection of carnivorous plants. The Triangle has miles of hiking at Eno River and Umstead, while the Triad has great views from atop Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock.
    Take breaks. Try to fit in 10 to 15 minutes of rigorous physical activity several times a day. At our house, we call it, “Hey kids, let’s go play in the street!” time. We live at the end of a cul de sac, the perfect arena for kickball and

    Whiffleball read more

    Footing the bill for a truly happy holidays

    Happy holidays! Here’s hoping you survive them!

    If you’re looking for a time of year that’s hardest on your body, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the one that kicked off with pants-unbuckling Thanksgiving and ends with a cold pack on your head New Year’s Day. Think about the damage alone done by the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

    Thanksgiving: overeating. Estimates place the typical holiday meal at 3,000-plus calories, or closing in on twice the recommended daily calorie intake for the average person. And that’s just for the main meal; in the case of Thanksgiving you can nearly double that amount if you throw in the follow-up leftover meals that will be consumed by day’s end.

    Black Friday: stress. First, there’s the business of consuming nearly 6,000 calories on Thanksgiving, then heading out at midnight to elbow your way to the $2 waffle irons table. Add to that your wacko fellow shoppers — a female shopper at a California Walmart used pepper spray to keep her competitors at bay — and you’ve pretty much taken 10 years off your life with those two days alone. And the bulk of the holiday season remains.

    You want a truly happy holidays, or at least a holiday season that won’t do you in? Then you need to do something that helps you deal with both overeating and stress. Lucky for you that some thing is one thing:

    Going for a walk.

    Walking is the nation’s most popular form of exercise. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 95.8 million Americans walked for exercise in 2010 (exercising with equipment was a distant second, with 55.3 million participants). There’s good reason for this: most people can walk, it doesn’t require special equipment, you can do it spontaneously, out your front door, so it can be done quickly.

    There’s more reasons to walk. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can:

  • Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
  • Manage your weight
  • Improve your mood
  • Keep you strong and fit
  • read more