How you can stay motivated: I need to lose 60 pounds, but every time I start a workout program, I quit after a few weeks. What can I do to stick with exercise and my good intentions? … and more of your questions answered here – Weight Loss Q+A
Q I am 21 years old, 60 pounds overweight and very out of shape. I want to start exercising, but no matter what I do, regardless of whether it’s jogging or an aerobics video, I am in pain and exhausted. After a couple of weeks, I quit, and then I feel like a failure. How can I be more successful at sticking with it?
A “Start by setting realistic goals,” says CC Cunningham, M.S., an Evanston, Ill., trainer and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. Instead of jumping right into a jogging program — which is bound to leave you wiped out, if not injured — start by walking for 15 minutes three days a week, adding five minutes to your walks every other week. Focus on simply getting into the habit of exercising. “It’s not about how far, how long or how hard you exercise,” Cunningham says. “It’s about making the commitment. Once you get the habit developed, exercise won’t be a chore. It’ll be something you actually enjoy and look forward to.”
On the video front, choose tapes designed specifically for novices, and let yourself push the “pause” button or stop before the tape has ended. “There’s no failure in not doing the whole video,” Cunningham says. “Success just means being able to do more each time.”
Cunningham suggests tracking your workouts in an exercise diary so you can appreciate your accomplishments. When you reach your short-term fitness goals — such as working out three times a week for one month — reward yourself. “Treat yourself to a massage or a new CD,” she says. “Success isn’t necessarily in the quantity of exercise but in the effort.”
Q If a calorie is a calorie, why do all the sound dietary guidelines advocate lowfat meals for weight loss? Does it really matter how much fat you eat?
A For weight loss, what matters is indeed how many calories you consume, but most people are more successful at losing or managing weight with a lowfat diet. That’s because fat contains more calories per gram (9) than do carbohydrate or protein (4). “So cutting fat is an easy strategy for cutting calories,” says Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., nutrition chair at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
However, this does not mean lowfat meals are always better than meals higher in fat. In fact, diets very low in fat — less than 15-20 percent of calories from fat — and very high in refined carbohydrate can lower HDL cholesterol (the good kind), increasing heart-disease risk. For this reason, health experts have stopped placing the focus on total fat and instead are emphasizing the importance of limiting saturated and trans fats.
Q My husband loves to hunt, which means we eat a lot of game meat, like pheasant, duck and venison. How do these meats compare, in fat and calories, to beef, chicken and pork?
A “As a general rule, animals in the wild get a lot more exercise than animals that are farm-raised, so they’re going to be leaner and lower in fat,” says Joan Carter, R.D., a nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. However, they’re also going to be less tender and may require braising instead of grilling. “If you try to grill pheasant, you’ll be chewing all day,” Carter says. “So you may be adding back the calories in your cooking method.”
Below is a comparison of various meats. All values are for 3.5 ounces of raw meat. To make additional comparisons, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl.
game meat vs. farm-raised
Calories Total fat Saturated fat
Vension 120 2.4 g 1 g
Pheasant 133 3.6 1.2
Wild 123 4.3 1.3
Domestic 132 6 2.3
Wild boar 136 3.7 1.1
Flank steak 154 7.4 3.2
80% lean 264 20.7 8.3
70% lean 310 27 11
Light meat 114 1.7 0.4
Dark meat 119 4 1
Pork loin 149 6 2
Q I am 34 years old, 5-foot-3 and 140 pounds. I exercise four days a week, doing 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training. Although I would like to be leaner, I feel that I am in generally good shape. However, I’ve noticed that many women who write in to your magazine are 10 pounds lighter than I am even though they are 2 or 3 inches taller. Am I too heavy for my height?
A No. “Strictly based on height and weight, you’re in a healthy weight range,” says nutrition professor Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D. Your body mass index (BMI) is 24.8. A BMI above 25 is considered overweight, indicating increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The quickest way to determine BMI is to go to any online BMI calculator, such as the one on the Centers for Disease Control Web site, www.cdc.gov. (Simply do a site search for “BMI.”) To do the math yourself, use the following formula: (weight in pounds divided by height in inches divided by height in inches) times 703. (In your case that would be 140/63/63 x 703 = 24.8.)
Rather than comparing yourself to other women, focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “Genetically, were all dealt a particular body type, so weight comparisons are hard to make,” Rosenbloom notes. Also, two people of the same height and weight may have vastly different body-fat percentages. The BMI formula is considered inaccurate for athletes with a significant amount of muscle mass.
“Keep up what you’re doing,” Rosenbloom says. Maintain the weight training, since women tend to lose muscle mass and gain fat as they age.
Q I just can’t get used to the taste of lowfat cheese. I love to throw feta on top of my spinach salads and eat real Cheddar on a sandwich. Just how harmful is full-fat cheese?
A Full-fat varieties are loaded with saturated fat, the type of fat that raises blood cholesterol, but if you aren’t at high risk for heart disease, there’s no reason to eat cheese that you don’t enjoy. “Go ahead and eat the full-fat cheese in moderation, and just watch how much other saturated fat you eat,” says Joan Carter, R.D., a nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Sprinkling feta on your salad is different from gobbling down Cheddar-cheese cubes at a party.”
One ounce of Cheddar contains 114 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat, about one-third of the maximum amount of saturated fat recommended daily. Nutrition experts advise getting no more than 7-10 percent of your calories from saturated fat, which is found in animal products such as milk, butter and beef. That’s 16-22 grams of saturated fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, this recommendation also includes trans fats, artery-clogging fats that are found in fried foods and commercial baked goods but that are not required by law to be included on nutrition labels. And trans fat numbers can be substantial. So, if you do eat full-fat cheese, remember that you are getting trans fats elsewhere as well. With pungent cheeses such as feta (75 calories per ounce, 4.2 saturated fat grams) and grated Parmesan (129 calories per ounce, 5.4 saturated fat grams), a few sprinkles of one or the other can go a long way.
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