Simultaneously, we have engineered exercise out of our lives by building communities with no sidewalks for safe walking, TVs with remote controls, escalators, and automatic garage door openers. We've learned to turn to food for comfort when we are feeling stressed, isolated or lonely.
Because exercise is an essential key to maintaining a healthy weight, most athletic people who read this article do not have serious weight problems. But many more fight to stay lean, and all of you know someone-a parent, child, spouse or friend-who would be healthier if he or she were to lose at least 20 pounds. Here are three weight management strategies that can help you and your loved ones minimize fat gain and optimize desired fat loss without feeling denied or deprived of enjoyable food. The following doable suggestions can save 100 to 200 calories per day, enough to make a difference in your battle of the bulge.
Strategy #1. Boost your calcium intake.
In 1988, researchers were surprised and fascinated by the results of a study looking at the effect of calcium on blood pressure. Not only did the consumption of two cups of yogurt per day contribute to lower blood pressure, but also to 11 pounds of fat loss in 12 months-even though the subjects had been told to try to maintain weight! This finding triggered more research and today we know:
- calcium within the cell regulates fat storage.
- a high calcium diet turns more calories to heat than to body fat.
- calcium-rich diets contribute to fat loss in the stomach area.
- calcium-rich diets can help minimize midlife fat gain.
- eating three to four servings of calcium rich dairy foods per day contributes to loss of more fat and less muscle compared to dieters who ate less dairy. That is, in a 12 week weight loss study, those who ate three cups of yogurt per day lost 60 percent more fat than those on a calcium-supplemented diet. (Other components in milk, such as high quality protein, may contribute to this beneficial effect of burning fat while preserving muscle.)
A growing body of evidence indicates consuming calcium-rich dairy foods three to four times a day equates to the burning of about 100 more calories of body fat per day--or about 10 pounds of fat per year. Certainly, you can get calcium from nondairy sources (broccoli, calcium-enriched orange juice, supplements), but calcium from (preferably lowfat) dairy foods is most effective.
If you balk at the thought of consuming so much yogurt or milk, keep in mind you can easily choose cereal with lowfat milk for breakfast, have a lowfat yogurt for a midmorning or evening snack, and enjoy a lowfat latte for an afternoon energy booster. Other options include putting two slices (1.5 ounces) of lowfat cheese on a sandwich, cooking oatmeal with milk, and yes, even drinking chocolate milk for a post-exercise recovery drink, which provides a nice balance of carbs and protein.
Given that calcium-rich diets are helpful for not only weight management but also for regulating blood pressure and keeping bones strong, you'll do your health a favor by boosting your calcium intake. The trick to consuming more calcium-rich dairy is to be sure the calories are within your daily calorie budget and not excessive. That is, you cannot start to guzzle gallons of milk and expect to lose body fat! For help with learning how to balance more milk and yogurt into your daily diet, I suggest you consult with a local sports dietitian: go to www.eatright.org and put your zip code into the referral network.
Strategy #2. Eat breakfast.
About 40 percent of adults skip breakfast at least four times a week. Although skipping breakfast may seem a good way to eliminate calories, breakfast skippers tend to be fatter than breakfast eaters. But when people eat a larger-than-normal breakfast, they end up eating almost 100 fewer calories by the end of the day, an amount that can curb creeping obesity. Hence, eating breakfast is one strategy that makes a big difference in weight management (to say nothing of sports performance). In a group of dieters who have lost and kept off more than 30 pounds, 97 percent are now committed breakfast eaters! They know what works...
Strategy #3: Eat more fiber and whole grain foods.
Foods that are satiating (i.e., that fill you to the point you choose to stop eating) are rich in protein (meat, fish, chicken) or fiber(whole grains, fruits, vegetables). Given that protein often comes along with unhealthy saturated fat (e.g., cheese, bacon, hamburger), and excess calories of fatty foods are easily fattening, a wise option is to curb hunger by filling up on fiber-rich foods.
Fiber-rich foods also tend to be bulky; bulk helps promote satiety. That is, you can reduce the calorie content of a casserole by 30 percent by adding bulky vegetables (mushrooms, celery, peppers) and people will consume fewer calories without noticing the difference. According to Barbara Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan, consuming bulky foods with a high fiber and water content can help you eat fewer calories. This means more fruit, vegetables, soup, beans, legumes, bran cereal (e.g., Bran Chex, Fiber-One), and whole grain cereals, (e.g., Wheaties, Cheerios, Total). Cereal is more satisfying than equal calories of a croissant.
Given the abundance of food in our society, we all need skills to manage the food environment. This means eating breakfast and consuming more calcium, fiber, and whole grains. Sounds like Wheaties is indeed the breakfast of (lean) champions!
Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine, [http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=ACSM_Fit_Society_Page] ACSM Fit Society Page, Summer 2004, p. 8-9.