1. At each meal, choose a protein source (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, cottage cheese, natural peanut butter, protein powder); generally the size of the palm of the hand and the same thickness. For breakfast, half a palm should suffice.
2. At each meal, eat a starch (bread, cereal, pita, cooked pasta or rice, potato, corn, dried beans); about the size of a clenched fist.
3. The third component of your meal should be a fruit and/or vegetable choice; I would encourage unlimited quantities of these.
4. The best beverage to accompany a meal is water; limit juice (unsweetened) to one cup daily. You could have milk or unsweetened soy beverage at meals but I prefer to incorporate these at snack time.
5. Meal timing. We should eat within 1 hour of waking and from that starting time try to eat every 3 hours; with preferably nothing after the evening meal. Try to allow three to four hours of no eating before getting to sleep.
6. Snacks. I suggest low glycemic snacks such as: fruit, fruit salad, unsweetened applesauce, dried fruit, raw vegetables, brothy soup with vegetables (no starch), yogurt, smoothies (milk, yogurt, fruit), decaf latte, milk (or chocolate 1% milk for chocolate lovers), milk puddings, V8 vegetable juice (one cup). You could substitute unsweetened soy beverages or rice beverages for the milk.
Page 1 of 2 – more practical weight loss strategies on the next page!
7. Instead of counting total calories, use the practical tools in points 1-3. Once we get into calories there can be significant error regarding estimating requirements, intake, and the difficulty of being able to sustain an approach to calorie counting. As well, if someone has been dieting for years, most formulations will likely overestimate their energy requirements, etc.
8. Ask yourself what your three most significant challenges are in achieving your weight loss goals. After you've identified those obstacles, you can focus on them. For example, someone might always snack while preparing or putting away a meal. Or, "I always eat when I can finally unwind in the late evening," or "I miss morning and afternoon snacks because I am out and about, which leads to overconsumption at meals." Or, "I have afternoon cravings for sweets," etc.
9. Another critical step is to keep food and fluid records for at least 7 days – longer is always better. A food record will help you assess imbalances in areas such as meal timing (e.g. too long between meals or no snacking); small lunch and huge dinner; lack of sufficient fluids (i.e. less than two litres daily); too many sweetened beverages (slushy coffees, ice tea, juices, pop, slurpees, etc.); or too many sweets (reaching for mints, candies, etc.) that may be readily available. Often we only think about the food on our plate when we sit down (or not) to eat; the extras between meals are usually the culprit, not the meals.
10. Assessing body weight. I use two perspectives. One is to take a weight history. What is the lowest weight that someone has been stable at in the past for at least five years since the age of 25. For example, Kathy weighed 145 pounds for years and then shot up to 177 pounds. Thus we are aiming for 145 as a goal weight for her (regardless of height/weight tables).
Another method is to take 100 pounds for five feet in height and another five pounds per inch, give or take 10 per cent. So at five feet, seven inches, the average person should be 100 35 = 135 pounds, or within a range of 123 to 148 pounds. If this number is unrealistic, go back to the first perspective of stable weights.
A third approach is to take your current weight and aim for a 10 per cent weight reduction. For Kathy that would be to lose 17 to 18 pounds. Then we can re-evaluate and see if she can stand to lose another five to 10 per cent . You know you are at a natural set point when you eat to satiety, are not preoccupied with food thoughts, and enjoy a variety of foods without major restrictions or sacrifices.
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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.