Posts Tagged ‘weight management’

What Roles does Watching TV Play in Weight Gain?

Watching TV Cause Weight GainBeware of too much television viewing!  Published in the journal Obesity, a 2006 study by Raynor and colleagues examined the relationship between weight and viewing of television, VCRs, and/or DVDs.  Their subjects included 1422 subjects who had just joined the National Weight Control Registry.  In order to join the Registry, each subject had to have reported losing at least 30 pounds and maintaining that weight loss for at least a year.  One interesting fact emerged right away from information gleaned from these subjects:  they had not been frequent television watchers at the time they joined the Registry.  Only 12.5% reported watching television for three hours per day or more, and 38.5% reported doing so for less than 10 hours per week, versus an average television watching time of 28 hours per week for the American public at large.  One wonders if the low television viewing may have contributed to the subjects’ losing enough weight to qualify for joining the Registry.

The authors found that the subjects who watched the most television gained significantly more weight back in the year after joining the Registry than those who watched the least.  In addition, those who increased their television watching during the succeeding year gained more than those who did not, particularly if they also reduced their level of physical activity.  Specifically, subjects who increased television watching while decreasing physical activity averaged gaining back 9.0 pounds during the year, versus an average weight gain of 2.2 pounds for those who increased physical activity and reduced television watching.

These results are not too surprising.  After all, the great increase in the incidence of obesity in the last 20-30 years has been associated in time with a greatly increased role of television, VCRs/DVDs, and computers in the daily lives of most Americans.  We have become a largely sedentary culture, with so many means of entertainment for which we primarily sit and do not move.

This study did not provide a definitive answer for why television watching is associated with weight regain.  Certainly, low physical activity is one factor, but when level of physical activity was held constant, subjects who watched a lot of television or increased their watching still gained more weight over the course of the year than those who did not.  Snacking during watching television may be a culprit; many people who gain weight report a tendency to snack a lot, particularly with high-calorie and high-fat food and at night.  If people get used to eating in front of the television, the mere act of turning it on may become a learned cue for desiring and eating food.

These results challenge all of us to consider how watching television (or, for that matter, engaging in other sedentary entertainment such as using the computer) might affect our own ability to maintain or extend weight loss in the long-term.  Do such activities take us away from the physical exercise needed for success?  Has the television or the computer become a conditioned cue for overeating? If so, how can we combat these effects?

The best ways to prevent weight gain associated with sedentary entertainment vary from person to person, but several ideas may be helpful.  One might be to combine television watching with exercise, perhaps with a treadmill or stationary bicycle.  Another might be to arrange regular exercise on a schedule, or to make sedentary entertainment contingent on completing a certain amount of exercise each day.  You might also consider how to reduce calorie intake in front of the television or computer, perhaps by making a rule to eat only at the table, or to eat only prepared low-calorie snacks.  Using the three behavioral principles of self-monitoring, goal-setting, and support may also be helpful.  You are likely to benefit from keeping track of what you eat in front of the television or computer, setting specific and realistic goals for such eating, and/or enlisting the help of your support system to encourage you while you work on behavioral change.

Related Resources:

Reference:  Raynor, DA, Phelan, S, Hill, JO, & Wing, RR.  Television viewing and long-term weight maintenance results from the National Weight Control Registry.  Obesity, 2006, vol. 14, 1816-1824.

Embark on a Great Grain Adventure!

Meagan Mohammadione, RD/LD Emory Bariatric CenterPeople often say that eating healthy is boring but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Bring some adventure to your plate by incorporating grains from across the globe. Using multiple whole food sources to get your necessary nutrients provides many health benefits.

About a quarter of our plates should be filled up with starches, including whole grains. The world provides us with a plethora of great grain options to keep us healthy and provide variety. Travel the globe through eating grains that are native to other countries and banish the boring. Here are two grain options to start your adventure.


Teff – is a grass native to Ethiopia with small seeds which cook quickly. The teff flour is traditionally used to make injera bread and now is used as a grain side dish in cultures in Europe and the US. Teff is an adaptable grain, thriving in both drought and waterlogged soil environments.

– Millet is the name given to a number of different small seed grains grown widely around the world. There are many varieties of millet with Pearl Millet being the most widely used variety. India is the largest producer of millet, with it often eaten as a popped snack, where as in the US, people often feed millet to birds! Americans are now giving millet a second look and seeing the value in consuming it themselves. Millet is a gluten-free grain and therefore can be consumed by people with Celiac disease. Millet contains high levels of magnesium, niacin, B6, calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc; however, millet needs to be roasted or germinated before boiling to get the most out of these nutrients. The protein in millet is similar to that in wheat. Millet is often cooked as porridge or with a stew and made into bread and crepes.Teff is a very nutritious grain being a good source of fiber, niacin, iron, thiamin, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and protein. Containing all 9 essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. It is also a gluten-free product so it can be eaten by people with Celiac disease.

Mindless versus Mindful Eating

Mindfull vs. Mindless Eating HabitsOvereating often occurs because we are not aware of how the environment around us affected our eating and what the quantities of food we consume are. Brian Wansink, PhD, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, has written a book called Mindless Eating, in which he describes research studies that reveal how little awareness we often have about our eating and what influences it. Amazingly, even his students, who were PhD candidates in nutritional science, were unaware of how their environment influenced their eating. These are some of his findings:

  • The average overweight person underestimated his or her calorie intake by 30-40% (versus 20% for normal-weight people). The more they ate the greater percentage they were off in their estimates.
  • People ate 53% more popcorn if given a large container versus a small one, even though it was stale and they had just eaten.
  • Even PhD students in nutritional science ate 31% more ice cream at a party if their bowls were big rather than small.
  • When a candy dish at their desk at work was transparent, people ate 71% more candy versus if the dish was opaque, even with the same amount of candy in the dish.
  • If Hershey’s kisses were within reach at a secretary’s desk, he/she ate nine per day on the average, versus four if the candy was six feet away.
  • The more people are around us, the more we tend to eat; if we have 7 or more friends around us, we eat double the food than when alone.

Living in the United States, which has the highest obesity rate of any large country; it is easy to become overweight just following what others in our culture do. Our biggest weapon in being “counter-culture” is awareness: knowing what is in the food that we eat and how much of it we are eating. Wansink’s findings have some clear implications for people who want to lose weight:

  • Think of times when you tend to be least aware. Often these times occur when people are in social situations, when they are served food by another person, and/or when they are tired, bored or stressed. Come up with a plan for controlling eating in these situations.
  • Consider filling out a food diary during difficult times to make you aware of your eating habits and the number of calories you consume.
  • Think of how you can make a 100-calorie change in your eating or exercise per day. Examples would be: to cut out one can of a sugared beverage per day; skip one dessert per day, walk for 15 minutes daily; regularly take stairs rather than elevators, park further away from stores or other destinations, and/or walk while talking on a cell or portable phone.
  • Preplan how much you will eat during parties and social occasions and how you will control your food intake. An example would be to fill up one plate during a buffet, consume a preset number of chips at a Mexican restaurant, or decide to eat half a portion at a restaurant and to ask for a box before you start eating. Consider alternative activities with friends besides those associated with overeating.
  • Control your environment so as to make problem foods less available. Shop from a list and when not hungry so that problem foods are not in the house. Put any such foods in the back of the panty or refrigerator and store them in small containers.  (Many people find it helpful to put pre-measured meals or snacks aside.) Resolve never to take a big box or container in front of you and eat from it. Keep seconds away from reach and serving containers off the table.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. For many people, their use saves many pounds each year.

Reference: Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Mindless Eating. Bantam Dell Publishers, New York, 2006.

Smart Strategies for Dining Out

smart-strategiesIt’s well known that we eat more calories when we dine out at restaurants than we would eating at home.  But, you don’t have to completely avoid restaurants when trying to manage your weight.  Here are some smart strategies to help control your calories.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Have your server put high-fat condiments like salad dressing and mayonnaise on the side so you can control how much gets put on your meal.  Ask to substitute high-calorie side items like French fries for salad or steamed vegetables.
  2. Take half your meal home. Ask for a to-go box as soon as your meal comes to the table.  Put half of it away before you are finished eating.  Now you have two (or three) meals in one!
  3. Pass the bread. Save your calories for your main course!  Put the bread/chip basket on the other side of the table to resist temptation.   Better yet, ask your server to not bring it to your table at all.
  4. Fill up on low-calorie foods. Order a side salad (with light dressing) or a broth-based soup to help fill up your stomach when you are really hungry.  This will help you eat slower and eat less when your main course arrives.
  5. Go for an after dinner stroll. If you feel like you have eaten too much, it’s tempting to lie down.  This may actually make you feel more uncomfortable.  Instead, try going for a light 10-15 minute walk.  This will aid in digestion and help push food out of your stomach.

Meagan Mohammadione, RD/LD Emory Bariatric Center

What else? Any other tips you have to add to this list? If so, please share them with us and our readers using the comments below!

How to Make a Successful New Year’s Resolution – Dos & Don’ts

Do: Get a Head Start

Healthy New Year's Resolutions Dos & Don'ts

The first day of the New Year seems like the perfect day to start a new lifestyle, but why wait for a specific day to begin a healthier way of life?  Waiting may actually be doing more harm than good to your resolution.  The holiday temptations and the “I can indulge today/ this week/this month because I am going to lose weight in the New Year” mentality can actually set you back farther and make your resolution harder to achieve.  There’s no sense in putting off for later what you can start today.

Don’t: Go to the Extreme

The most common reason that New Year’s resolutions fail is because they are too unrealistic.  It’s great to be motivated to improve your health, but people often try to change too much at once.  For example, a sedentary person will fail in the long run if their goal is to go to the gym every single day.  Instead, it would be more doable for this person to resolve to walk around their neighborhood for 15 minutes, three days a week.  Once they are in the habit of doing this, then they can gradually increase the length and frequency of their workouts.

Do: Think About Your Goals

Simply saying that you are going to lose weight won’t make it happen without creating a plan.  To do this, think about where you are right now and what baby steps you can take to reach your larger goals.  Try these tips that will help you along the way: write your goals down, get a friend to help you, track your progress, and reward your accomplishments (but not with food!).

Don’t: Forget to Revisit Your Resolution

It’s OK to revise your goals.  In fact, it will actually help you achieve them.  Life happens and you can’t always control it.  Focus on the elements of your lifestyle that you can control and forget about what you can’t.  This will help you stay positive and focused.

How Quickly We Eat May Affect Our Weight

eating-fastRecent studies have been examining whether the rate in which we eat influences our weight. In one study, researchers gave women pasta at two different times. The first time, they were told to eat quickly. The second time, they were encouraged to slowly chew each mouthful 15 to 20 times before swallowing. On average, women ate 67 fewer calories when they took time to chew their food. The authors of this study noted that cutting 67 calories at dinner translates into seven pounds of weight loss per year.

Another similar study focused on examining how the speed of eating changes appetite and the rate of which food (energy) in our bodies is used. A calorimeter machine was used to measure how much energy a person burns throughout the day. On the first day, women ate lunch in a total of 10 minutes, on the second day they ate lunch in 20 minutes, and on the third day they ate a 40 minute lunch. Although the results have not yet been published, researchers are hoping to find a link between the speed of eating a meal and how energy is processed and how a person’s appetite changes. If this research shows promise, simply slowing down the rate you eat dinner may result in decreased appetite leading to gradual, sustainable weight loss.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a connection between the pace of eating and weight loss/gain? Let us know in the comments below!

More info:

6 Tips for Controlling Your Weight During the Holidays

Healthy Holiday Eating TipsAll of us know that the holidays can be a perilous time for those who wish to lose weight, with all the parties, family gatherings and food around us. It is part of our culture to overeat from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day, and others around us are likely to do so. Moreover, the food consumed often is high in sugar and fat, and alcohol does not relieve hunger very well, and can cause us to be less in control and more inattentive.

The following are some ideas to consider to help you control your weight during the holidays:

  1. Remind yourself that our culture at large does not have to be your personal culture.
  2. Make sure that your thinking and attitude are healthy.  Think of moderate eating during the holidays as a step toward better health and function, and not as “deprivation.”  Avoid berating yourself for any lapses; however, do not gloss over them, and use them as a cue to set goals for the next time you are in a similar situation.
  3. Plan an overall strategy in advance of the holiday season. Consider what problems you have had in the past and think of ways to address these problems successfully.
  4. Go to a social event with a plan for eating. Compensate for any planned increase in eating with reduced eating and/or increased exercise before the event.  If possible, avoid going to the event when overly hungry or tired.  While there, eat slowly to help control the quantity of food consumed.
  5. Avoid having leftovers or high-calorie food sitting around in your environment without a plan for them.
  6. Don’t forget exercise, which easily can be neglected with busy schedules and colder weather.

What else? Do you have tips and tricks that you use to control your weight around Thanksgiving and other holidays? If so, please share them with us and our readers in the comments below!

Related Resources:


Helping You Overcome the Exercise Shoulda, Coulda, Wouldas

Exercise excusesReasons we are not Exercising and Strategies to Overcome all of the Excuses

Weight loss is not an easy task to accomplish.  Often times it involves a lifestyle change in which we are forced to change habits we have developed over a lifetime. Many of us have trouble incorporating physical activity into our daily routines and come up with a number of excuses as to why we are not going to do it.  It is time to combat these excuses with pre-contemplated strategies so these excuses cannot hold us back.

With that said, these are the top 5 excuses we hear most often for not exercising and tips to help you overcome excuses:

1) I’m Too Tired

  • Wake up 30 minutes early and work out.  It will increase your energy for the rest the day!
  • Choose to do an activity you enjoy instead of “working out.” Garden in the spring or ice-skate in the winter to burn away the calories.
  • Start small; exercise will increase your energy.  Try going on a 5-minute walk and see how you can progress each day!

2) I Don’t Have Time

  • Utilize your lunch break.  Walk outside, or try going up and down the stairs for a challenge!
  • While watching your favorite TV show, do crunches or push-ups during the commercials!
  • Schedule time to exercise in your calendar, phone, etc the same as you would for a meeting or your child’s play date.

3) I’m Too Sore from My Last Work Out

  • Exercise a different part of your body.  If your legs hurt from walking, focus on your upper body.
  • Stretch!  This can help to improve flexibility and reduce the tension in your muscles.

4) Exercise is Boring

  • Experiment! Try swimming or Zumba — find something you enjoy!
  • Bring a book, magazine, or iPod to entertain you while you exercise.
  • Bring a friend!  Ask someone to join you to chat and the time will fly by.

5) I Hate to Sweat

  • Exercise in the pool! Join a water aerobics class or just kick your feet while holding onto the side of the pool.
  • Walk indoors! Ladies try a walk around the mall, and men try a sporting good store to workout and cool off.
  • Try resistance exercises.  Not all exercise makes you sweat.  Try this website for some great strength training suggestions!

So now it is time to stop with all of the excuses, and get moving.  Incorporate one or all of these strategies into your workout routine to keep you focused and motivated on your long-term goals.  It is not always easy, but when you feel the excuses escape your lips, recall these strategies to keep active!

Looking for even more ways to incorporate effective weight management techniques into your daily life? Tomorrow, Meagan Mohammadione, Registered Dietitian from the Emory Bariatric Center, is hosting a free web chat to discuss healthy recipe modification tips to boost the nutrition of your Thanksgiving menu, while lessening the guilt! There’s still time to sign up and join her!

Eat Right with Color!

become a patientBy:  Laura Zenni and Larissa Myers, Emory Healthcare Dietetic Interns

When most people start a diet, elimination of certain foods is common. This can be a positive change (like eating less fried foods).  In addition to limiting certain food items, why not add healthy new foods as well? Eating a variety of colors will naturally incorporate many vitamins and minerals into your diet. Foods that have the most color and catch our eye are fruits and vegetables.

Aim for 2-4 fruit servings and 3-5 vegetable servings per day. This may seem like a large amount, but a serving of fruit or cooked vegetables is ½ cup and a serving of raw vegetables is 1 cup. Or, skip the measuring and try this simple trick: fill half your plate with fruits and/or vegetables at each meal.

Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, calcium and many more!  They can boost immune function, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Be sure to vary the color! Different colored fruits and vegetables have different health benefits. For instance, green produce promotes eye health while purple and blue fruits and vegetables help heal wounds and cuts and fight infections. Also, did you know that fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of fiber? Fiber keeps our digestive system healthy and also fills us up so we are more satisfied at meals.

In summary, eating right involves not only eliminating, but incorporating new and healthy foods into your eating plan. Add color, through fruits and vegetables, to your meals and snacks for a healthier you!