Registered dietician Kelly Anne Erdman is one of the experts helping former Olympic luge athlete Kathy Salmon Farstad regain control over her work, personal and physical life through healthier living.
This month, Kelly Anne answers four frequently asked dieting questions.
1. When eating, how do I sense when enough is enough?
The first question is to ask yourself is “Am I hungry?” because if you are not truly hungry when you reach for food then it will be difficult to actually sense fullness, since it wasn't a hunger issue in the first place.
Nonetheless, when trying to sense fullness there are a few practical solutions. Taking time to eat slowly (at least 20 minutes per meal), allows the physiological mechanisms a chance to kick in and send the messages to the brain that ample calories have been consumed. To slow down the eating process, try to put your utensils down between bites, thereby avoiding “pre-loading” (i.e. your mouth is busy chewing and your fork is lined up for entry).
Prior to reaching for a second (or third) serving of food, again use the clock for timing. Wait 15-20 minutes, after which time the desire to eat usually subsides, because you likely did have enough to eat.
The gold standard of keeping food records continues to be an eye-opening experience to help acknowledge the amount of food consumed and recognize true hunger, and hopefully will in turn help determine when “enough is enough.”
2. When close to my goal weight, but not quite there, what strategies can I take?
The personal choice of a goal weight is a guesstimate of where we may want our weight to be. However, simply making a numerical choice does not guarantee that the desired body weight is meant to be. Make sure that your goal weight is realistic and reasonable. Think back to your adult weight at 25-30 years of age (not 18 years), then usually set your standards at 5% above this weight.
If you truly believe that your goal weight is attainable, then you should look very closely at your food intake. After keeping comprehensive food and fluid records, determine where you can further streamline your nutrition without making severe dietary sacrifices. We can all lose weight with very low-calorie diets, but if the caloric intake is too restrictive this WILL lead to a body weight rebound and you will gain at least 10-20 pounds after the severe dietary restriction.
There are a few solutions to streamline your nutrition when attempting to reach your goal weight. First, watch your fluid calories. Can you have fewer alcoholic beverages, slushy-type coffees, ice tea, lemonade or juices? Instead, reach for refreshing sparkling water flavored with fresh lime or lemon juice. Secondly, how often do you see yourself reaching for that occasional treat? Try to restrict these extras to 1 to 3 per week. Are you eating often enough throughout the day, yet putting the brakes on beyond the dinner meal? Try to allow at least 3-4 hours of not eating prior to sleeping, thus encouraging your metabolism to draw from fat stores for energy during your sleep.
And finally, schedule a session with a personal trainer to determine where your exercise routine can be modified by adding different exercises or intensifying existing workouts. The human body is an amazingly efficient machine and requires constant adjustment to stimulate the use of body fat for fuel.
3. How does the makeover process affect my overall health?
The entire makeover process is a comprehensive process that addresses physical, emotional, and mental health. Practicing good nutrition will reinforce the makeover process. Healthful dietary practices produce the good available mental and physical energy necessary to do the training, cope with stress, and optimize other cognitive demands. Conversely, when we are more active we tend to eat better to support our workouts.
The good nutrition/physical activity cycle reinforces itself. Instead of reaching for food for a lift, get it from the endorphins from exercise. Although exercising takes energy, it in turn provides energy because of increased blood flow to the brain and exercising muscles. This blood flow therefore provides greater oxygen delivery to the brain and muscles, thus energizing the body. As a result, being physically active helps to regulate the appetite. We may even find that we are less hungry on days when we work out simply because of the increased blood flow rate.
The trick is to choose workouts and food that are enjoyable and realistic.
4. How can I save time and energy when cooking?
Whenever preparing a meal, purposely double or triple your recipe to have leftovers for future meals. Schedule one or two days a week when you can prepare a number of meal items to be stored in the freezer. To avoid food spoilage, carefully label all your frozen food items indicating when the food was prepared. In a deep well freezer, food tastes best when consumed within six months after freezing. The freezer attached to your refrigerator only preserves food quality for up to three months.
Why not share some of your favorite dishes with friends, and they in return can help to stock your fridge with their specialties. Once a month (or week) prepare a new recipe from your Canadian Living magazine to avoid eating the same meals over and over.
One-dish type meals are probably the easiest to batch cook. Soups, stews, chili, lasagna, and casseroles can be a great way to nutritionally balance your meals. Prepare your one-dish meal to include ample vegetables (fresh or frozen), a protein source (meat, fish, poultry, tofu, cottage cheese or eggs), and a source of starch (rice, potato, pasta, kidney beans, corn).
Kelly Ann Erdman is a registered dietician and sports nutritionist with a private practice at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre and is herself a former Olympian. Erdman works with university students, national-team athletes and coaches and is the sports nutritionist for the Calgary Flames. Inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1999, Erdman was on the Canadian cycling team for eight years and competed at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. During her career, she captured 12 national titles, placed fourth in the 1990 World Championships and won a silver medal at the 1987 Pan American Games.