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Entries in weight loss (7)


Inspiration from a Meta Memphian

Fabiola has made activities like cycling a priority in her daily routineStarting last October, Wellness Brand Meta sponsored four “Meta Memphians” as part of its partnership with the City of Memphis, Tennessee. They served as inspiration in the city as they made small changes in their lives to create a lifetime of healthy habits. The Meta Memphians received support from local nutritionists and personal trainers, took part in health screenings, and integrated Meta products into their healthier lifestyles.

I asked Fabiola, one of the Meta Memphians, to share her story. Fabiola grew up in a culture where family gatherings centered around food and eating rich meals. She later opened her own catering company, but found that years of heavy eating negatively affected her health, sparking her to prioritize her health and wellness. Since then, she has made an effort to incorporate physical activities like Zumba or bike riding and health-conscious eating into a daily routine. Fabiola’s ultimate goal is to keep her cholesterol and overall health in check!

Q: What kind of food did you grow up eating (you mentioned family gatherings)?

A: We ate very healthy homemade food, not processed. It was a Middle Eastern diet with olive oil, parsley, bulgur, homemade yogurt, seeds and nuts. Also there were Guatemalan foods like black beans, homemade tortillas, fresh squeezed orange juice and lots of tropical fruits (mango, papaya, bananas).

Q: What inspired you to open a catering company and what kind of food do you specialize in cooking?

A: I felt that if I was working long hard hours for someone else and giving them ideas and food recipes, I could do it for me. But what inspired me the most was a good friend who saw my cooking talent and dedication, and believed in me. It only takes one person to believe in you!

Q: What types of health problems did you eventually develop? 

A: My cholesterol was high but I controlled it by exercising. It has been low for over 10 years now. In fact my good cholesterol improved once I started incorporating physical activity.

Q: What types of lifestyle changes and small healthy habits have you been able to incorporate that are realistic for you? 

A: I think just being aware of what are my triggers. Taking the time to eat and not feel so rushed. Slowing down and thinking about what I really want to put in my body versus, "Hey I'm hungry, move out of my way or else!"

Q: As a cook and former "heavy" eater, is it a challenge to eat smaller portions and cook lighter meals?

A: Haha! That is a good one—"former heavy eater." I’m still working on it. Cooking healthy, lighter meals is not a challenge, but eating too much is. The challenge is that I wait too long to eat and am starving once I sit down, so I end up eating too much. The hunger is greater than common sense. To avoid this from happening, I try and snack wisely throughout the day. For example instead of going for the cookies I'll grab a Meta Health Bar in between meals, which helps satisfy my hunger as a healthy snack. 

Q: What is one healthy cooking tip you use? 

A: Keep it simple but with lots of fresh colors from different fruits and vegetables: reds, greens, yellows. It is easy to add color to any meal. This makes the food taste better and at the same time my family and I get important nutrients.

Q: What are your current challenges with maintaining this lifestyle, and how are you overcoming them?

A: The fact that I realized I needed help was huge. Information regarding nutrition and healthy eating can be in our heads, but that does not mean we will use it wisely. Being aware has made me realize that although I love my job and what I do, it gets a bit stressful and hectic, and I forget to please ME. I please everyone all around me to the best of my ability. I have over 200 bosses in any given day, and I try to please them all. The biggest challenge has been taking time to give to myself.

Q: How would you encourage people who are trying to be healthier to stay on track if they become discouraged along the way? 

A: I would talk to them as they were my best friend going through some tough times. I would say, “Girl/Dude take a deep breath, let’s analyze this situation. It may seem like the end of the world but it is not. We can do this, I am listening. By talking about it, you have found the answer yourself. Take baby steps and if you need to start again, then do so. Every day is different, and today you are talking to me. You are okay and I am here to see you shine and reach your goal.” And one more thing: remember to laugh and have fun in the process!

Fabiola is a great inspiration for everyone to take small steps on their health and wellness journey! To learn more about Meta, head to MetaWellness.com.

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.


John Cisna and McDonald's Open Door Tour

Last week I wrote about Freshii, a healthy fast food chain. Now I get to talk about McD's, the fast food icon in an interesting position. Two weeks ago the emperor of fast food announced that it planned to close 900 of its restaurants worldwide after a $400 million loss in the first quarter this year. Increasing competition from new chain restaurants and a negative image of its "junk food" menu are likely contributors. With the rising costs of health insurance and out-of-pocket medical fees, consumers are proactively choosing prevention by eating better and losing weight. This has helped fuel the demand for fast food vegetarian and plant-based options while traditional fast food of hamburgers, French fries and soda loses ground.

Still I'll readily admit that I'm rooting for McDonald's. The golden arches are a familiar comforting sight whenever I'm on a road trip. I enjoy McD's low cost soft serve ice cream cones and oatmeal and allow my son a chicken nuggets/French fries meal a few times a month (and yes I do snitch a nugget and a few fries!). I hope they'll recognize the necessary trend of healthier fast food and continue to evolve their menu.

Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

I attended McDonald's Open Door Tour last weekend with other Boston-area bloggers to get a behind the scenes glimpse of their food production and hear an inspiring talk by John Cisna, the now famous Iowa science teacher who lost over 50 pounds eating only McDonald's meals for three months. This event clearly showed me that McDonald's radar is on, as they highlighted their fresh produce, fruit smoothies, oatmeal with fresh diced apples and dried fruit, and use of fresh whole eggs in their Egg McMuffins. The highlight of this event for me, as a dietitian who sees a majority of patients who eat out more than twice a week, was John Cisna's talk.

If you don't know his story, Cisna is a high school biology teacher who challenged his sophomores to design a scientific research study. With no ties to McDonald's at the time, they created the hypothesis, "Is it possible for a person to become better off by eating nothing but McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 90 days?" His students set daily nutrition goals for calories and 14 other nutrients based on the Recommended Dietary Allowances and USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They then researched the McDonald's menu, which discloses full nutrition information, to create a detailed menu for Cisna. This is a timely and relevant hypothesis, as McDonald's suffered a noxious blow with Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me documentary in 2004. If you don't recall the queasy details, Spurlock ate only McDonald's for 30 days and not only gained 25 pounds but increased his cholesterol, developed a fatty liver, and suffered "mood swings." Despite the fact that Spurlock was eating about 5000 calories daily, double the amount the average overweight American eats, viewers walked away with greater distrust for corporate McDonald's and the "poison" it was serving.

Cisna didn't know what his students' experiment would reveal, but he followed their menu strictly. Sure he ate plenty of salads, oatmeal, grilled chicken wraps and Egg White Delights, but he also enjoyed cheeseburgers, French fries and sausage burritos. As long as the meals fit the nutrition guidelines, he was allowed to eat it. The calorie goal was 2000, though certain days he dipped to 1700. Though his sodium and sugar intake exceeded government recommendations on certain days, overall those intakes were significantly lower than in his previous diet. He exercised moderately, walking for 45 minutes 4-5 days a week. 

The results? ...and God bless him, I do have the exact results because he sent me the full Excel spreadsheet displaying all 90 days of each meal with 15 nutrients, his exercise routine, weight, body measurements, cholesterol and triglycerides. From 9-15-2013 to 12-15-2013:

  • Weight dropped from 280 to 243 (37 pounds)
  • Cholesterol dropped from 249 to 170
  • Triglycerides dropped from 156 to 80
  • Lost 4.5 inches from his chest, 6 inches from his stomach, and 4 inches from his hips

Cisna continued to lose weight after the experiment and by March 2014 he had lost a total of 60 pounds. The key factor is that he also kept it off. A self-proclaimed recovering foodaholic, he now believes that there is no such thing as bad food, and fast food is not the problem. Quantity is the problem. Though he still eats at McDonald's several times a week, he stresses that this was an experiment, not a "McDonald's diet," to show that choices matter. "It's ok to have a Big Mac some days but not all the time. If I eat a 700 calorie slice of cheesecake, I accomodate my meals the rest of the day to fit it in."

It's sound, real-world advice. When I counsel patients in the nutrition clinic, I heavily promote a plant-rich diet because I believe plant foods are healing for almost every chronic disease: obesity, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, gallbladder, kidney stones, etc. etc. etc.! Many patients are ready for that, but many others aren't. They rely on take-out and fast food. For these folks, I help create sample menus that include take-out food and gradually introduce more plant foods. We research online restaurant menus for nutrition information and make better choices, similar to what Cisna did. And they lose weight and improve their bloodwork, as Cisna did. I agree with Cisna that it's about choices. You don't have to be a vegetarian and a Whole Foods devotee to be healthier, despite what a growing number of whole foods believers preach. I'm actually seeing more patients in the clinic who are gaining unwanted pounds eating too many high calorie foods with a health halo.

I applaud Cisna for going against popular opinion and reminding us about the importance of choices and moderation. Check out Cisna's video 540 Meals for more details about his experiment:

Disclosure: I received compensation from McDonald's in exchange for writing this review. Although this is a sponsored post, all opinions are honest and my own.


Weight Loss Without a Gimmick?

Losing weight is no joke. Infomercials for new diet plans and exercise videos make it look so easy. Everyone gushes about how fast they shed the pounds. Reality shows that even 10 solid pounds is a mountain to conquer. Most people who are obese (body mass index greater than 30) who walk into my nutrition clinic say they want to lose 50 pounds if not more. Only a handful ever reach that number. Most lose somewhere between 10-20 pounds over one year. Keeping it off is another chapter, and I don't call it success unless the weight lost stays off. Those who have permanently lost a lot of weight never say it's easy. They realize it's a complete lifestyle change that targets your home and work environment, your ingrained eating habits, and your friends' and family's support (or lack of). If you can get that under control, you still have to deal with constant visual stimulation from media food porn, unexpected stressful events that may throw you off, and societal pressure to look a certain way or weigh an exact number on the scale.

April grew up overweight in an environment where exercise and fresh home cooked meals didn't exist

So if I meet someone who has lost and kept off a lot of weight, I'm seriously impressed. If they've lost the weight without pills or a silly diet that omits entire food groups, I'm floored. I met that person this year in Zumba class, April Lamrock. When I first saw her, my instant impression was a very pretty girl who looked strong and confident. I'd never guess that a year ago she had weighed more than 300 pounds. 

April grew up overweight, not physically active and not eating healthfully. Her parents never cooked meals at home and ordered take out or fast food. She became a picky eater.

When she reached her peak weight at 309 in January 2013, she joined the Tanger Be Well Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She attributes the staff leaders in the program in helping her to lose weight slowly but steadily in the next several months with a no-frills plan of exercising and eating a sensible diet. She was intimidated by the fitness aspect as she had never exercised before but they were encouraging and helped her ease into it. She started exercising three days a week with 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strength training. After a few months she had worked up to six days a week of 30 minutes each of cardio and strength training. April recalls what helped the most was when the staff would check in with her if she had skipped a day or two. She needed accountability.

Regarding eating, April says that she already knew what to do. But because she was a picky eater, certain foods like whole grains, fresh fruit and fish weren't an option. Chicken and broccoli became her staples. Her main challenge was and still is to expand the variety in her diet. 

Because of her discipline and determination with a consistent exercise regimen of one hour 5-6 days a week, cutting out fast food, and eating more lean protein and vegetables, she lost weight to 193 pounds by the end of November 2013.

April before and after, having lost 116 pounds in 11 months, without diet pills or a fad diet (wow!)

April admits that this year old habits have crept back, along with the weight. She has less drive. "Now that I've lost the weight and feel I can look good in clothes, there isn’t as much motivation to keep eating right. I have since gone to see a nutritionist and she gave me a few tips." She's considering joining a weight management support group and has resumed logging into MyFitnessPal, which helped before. "Hopefully having the cold hard facts right there will make me stop eating badly."

April working a pose; she had regained about 17 pounds here

Ready to shake it in Zumba















I only know April through Zumba class, so right now she only sees me as her Zumba instructor. But as a nutritionist I'm dying to tell her that healthy eating is not only chicken and broccoli and salads. I'd encourage her to try one new food a week, and I'd show her easy recipes that taste amazing. I'd tell her that negative reinforcement ("bad foods" mentality) rarely pushes people in the right direction for long, because they end up forever craving those forbidden foods. I've already told her that even though she's discouraged with her weight regain, even right now she has the curvy fit body that most Zumba instructors wish for and that she needs to let her body find its way, rather than beating it up to reach a personal low or meet a body mass index number. Weight loss without a gimmick or magic bullet can be a long tedious journey with highs and lows. But real permanent change takes time because it's not just about losing weight; it's about making peace with your body, learning to treat it with respect by responding to its physiological and emotional needs, and discovering who you are beyond your size whether you're a skinny minny or have 10 pounds to go. Easier said than done I know, so I'll just end with a favorite quote: 

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn  —Harriet Beecher Stowe