Busy Executive’s Weight Loss Success Story

This busy executive contacted me saying that she was an active person who skied, hiked and ran but had struggled with her weight for most of her life. And although she is a vegan, she admitted to eating too many calories and wanted to get help with her nutrition as well as the strength training and accountability.

Did I mention she is busy? And I mean BUSY! She is a top executive with a major company and works 12 to 14 hour days at her highly demanding job.

Despite the lack of free time, she did her best over the first 6 to 8 months of us working together to discover what nutrition strategies and regular workout schedule worked best for her. At about that point, that’s when she started making major progress with her weight and body fat reduction. She was able to find habits and strategies that worked for her.

Its been impressive to watch her attention and dedication to her nutrition plan. I can recall large family parties, vacations, company dinners and lavish restaurant dinners where she said no to the luscious, high-calorie foods available to her and stuck with her eating plan. She was ultra motivated and nothing was going to take her off course.

She has been just as dedicated to her workouts. She runs several times a week, hikes or skiis on weekends, lifts weights with me twice a week, attends a boot camp one evening and a Pilates yet another. Some nights she doesn’t get home until 9 pm from her workouts.

She tells me she would like to lose another 15 pounds and I know she will. I also am confident that she will then be able to maintain her weight loss because of the healthy lifestyle habits she has incorporated. And if you are struggling with your weight, let her be an inspiration to you.

Date 5-6-14 5-3-16 Progress  
Height 5’3
Weight 197.6 143.6 -54
Neck 13.25 12 -1.25
Arm 14.75 11.75 -3
Forearm 10 8.75 -1.25
Wrist 7 5.75 -1.25
Waist 39.25 29.5 -9.75
Abdomen 37.5 31.25 -6.25
Hips 47.75 39.25 -8.5
Thigh 28 23.5 -4.5
Calf 16.5 14.75 -1.75
Body Fat 42.2% 32.3% -9.9%
Pushups 15 30 +15
54 pounds             
37.5 inches             
9.9% body fat            
Doubled upper body strength
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Modifying the Paleo Diet

I received a great comment from Dan regarding my blog on the Paleo Diet Review. Dan wrote: “Interesting that this came up. I started what I called a ‘modified’ Paleo diet on July 1. It’s not truly Paleo but for me it’s ‘no starches, no milk products, no processed foods or refined sugars’ – ever. I have never really dieted before but this works for me, and I get to each all the fruits, vegetables and lean meat that I want. I have to say though, I miss my cheese quesadillas.”

My response to Dan:

It is always a good idea to minimize processed foods, white flour products and refined sugars. Getting rid of those foods will naturally decrease a person’s caloric intake by eliminating unnecessary (and typically additional) empty calories. By eliminating those foods you are decreasing the amount of calories you were eating which results in a weight loss. Do you know it takes only 200 additional calories a day for 18 days above your body’s caloric needs to pack away one pound? That‘s a 20 pound weight gain a year.  And the reverse is true, if you decrease 500 calories a day for 7 days that theoretically results in a one pound weight loss.

Eliminate additional calories and junk foods but don’t eliminate healthy whole grains or dairy foods. Unless you are lactose intolerant there is no need to avoid milk products. (Just be sure to choose low-fat products). Dairy foods are an important source of protein, calcium, Vitamins A and D amongst other nutrients.

You are on the right track by focusing on lean meats, fruits and vegetables. To get the benefits from those healthy foods there are serving recommendations. See my article on how to evaluate the data from an online food journal to review your diet just like a dietitian would. This will help you to see if you are eating optimally for good health. https://myactivenutrition.com/blog/2012/07/how-to-evaluate-the-data-from-your-online-food-journal/

I recommend using MyFitnessPal online food and exercise journal. Studies have found that self-monitoring predicts success in long-term maintenance of weight loss. Self-monitoring is essential to your success!! MyFitnessPal will help you track the two main math variables in weight loss. Calories in and calories out.  And it will enable you to evaluate the nutritive value of your diet.

No need for you to give up your favorite cheese quesadillas. Make them with corn (a whole grain) or whole grain tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Incorporating whole grain foods into your diet may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. A University of Minnesota meta-analysis reviewed and compiled scores of studies on whole grains and health, to show how whole-grain intake is protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In fact, the benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include: stroke risk reduced 30-36%; type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%; heart disease risk reduced 25-28%; and better weight maintenance.

So get these benefits by choosing corn or whole grain tortillas. The healthiest corn tortillas are made with whole corn kernels and include the natural nutrient-rich bran, germ and endosperm. Look for corn tortillas that contain only stone ground whole corn, water and lime. Whole grain tortillas are not made with refined flour. A whole grain tortilla is full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Most of the benefits come from bran, germ and endosperm; the parts of the grain that are reduced or lost during the milling and processing necessary to produce white flour tortillas. The first ingredient on the label should say WHOLE.

There are many delicious low fat cheeses you can use in your quesadilla. I like to use reduced fat SHARP cheddar. Sharp cheese has a bold, rich flavor and you won’t miss the fat. To add flavor and nutrients to your quesadillas you can add cooked chicken, chopped green onions, mushrooms, diced red pepper, green pepper slices, olives, etc. Serve with a side of beans.

Beans make the list of foods highest in antioxidants. Ronald Prior, PhD, a chemist and nutritionist with the USDA’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Arkansas authored a groundbreaking antioxidant measure study and found that beans were at the top of the charts. One-half cup of red beans has 13,727 antioxidants; red kidney beans have 13,259; pinto beans, 11,864; and black beans, 4,191. Not to mention beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.

And don’t forget the salsa on that quesadilla. Tomatoes are another excellent source of antioxidants, particularly lycopene. Frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

So, if the general plan for the Paleo Diet is working for you, keep doing it with a few modifications.

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Are You Sabotaged by Your Expectations?

What are the biggest obstacles to successful weight and health management? Eating out, cooking and preparing healthy food, social situations, vacations, hectic schedules, stress, transitions, life crises, intense cravings, and on and on. The biggest obstacle to successful weight and health management likely lies within our expectations. In short, they’re too often blatantly unrealistic. All the menu planning, exercise and behavior modification in the world falls useless in the face of goals that are impossible to achieve.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Very often it’s because we strive to be perfect…we set our standards based on our images of the perfect eater or exerciser. How many of these unrealistic goals have you set for yourself?

  • To always be rewarded for hard work with a drop on the scale.
  • To be the perfect eater every hour of the day.
  • To eat only “diet,” low calorie, no-fat foods.
  • To never overeat.
  • To never miss an exercise session.
  • To always do exactly the number of miles or minutes of exercise you planned.
  • To lose lots of weight very quickly, e.g. 20 pounds in a month.
  • To never be threatened by food and eating situations.
  • To have the perfect body.

It’s always interesting to see how angry people feel toward family and friends who sabotage their weight and health management efforts. But frequently they fail to identify the biggest saboteur of all — themselves. They don’t realize that they continually set themselves up for failure by attempting to be the “superwoman” who never makes mistakes, is never hungry, deprived, stressed or overwhelmed. This “superwoman” never feels sad or bored, or tired, and above all, never lacks commitment or motivation.

Realistic expectations lead to success better than any strategy we have. Use the following tips to help develop realistic expectations for yourself.

  • Change your focus to who you are and how you feel rather than how you look and what you weigh.
  • Determine a healthy (not necessarily thin) weight for you, depending on your age, height, build, and past weight history.
  • Set a goal of practicing positive behaviors most of the time (say, eight-out-of-ten times), striving for improvement, not perfection.
  • Expect mistakes, and learn from them.
  • Don’t set deadlines for reaching a certain size, weight or measurement.
  • Base your eating plan on your Dietitian’s meal plan to include at least the minimum recommended servings of nutritious, and low fat foods based on your size, level of physical activity, and previous eating patterns.
  • Eat reasonable portions of your favorite foods instead of aiming for all “diet” foods.
  • Gear your exercise plans to what can reasonably fit into your schedule.
  • Recognize that some exercise is better than none. Modify the type, intensity, and duration of exercise to your current mood, if necessary. But do something!

Managing your weight and health is hard work. To insure success, get out of your own way. Forget those unattainable goals. Treat yourself as someone who is learning a new skill. Take small steps; expect mistakes; reward yourself for progress. Work for improvement, not perfection. Treat yourself kindly, as you would a friend struggling with a difficult problem. Above all, don’t give up! If you don’t keep trying, it’s impossible to succeed.

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