How to avoid eight
weighty pitfalls of
Ah, the holidays! The parties, the presents... the packed-on pounds. It's not just socializing that does your diet in during the festive months: It's also the circadian rhythms of the season. "We're programmed to eat more because our ancestors generally had less food in the winter," says Ingrid Frey, an exercise physiologist. "Now we've got plenty, but we're still stuck in that 'feast or famine' mode." But don't despair (or run out and buy elastic-waist pants): We've identified the eight biggest seasonal threats to your waistline and gathered expert advice on how to avoid them.
Trap 1: Family Feasts
While it's always great to see Aunt Betty, it might not be so great to eat her butter-laden food. "Watching calories around the holidays is tough because food ties you to you family and friends," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, R.D., and director of nutrition for WebMD Health.
Strategic sidestep: Contribute a healthful dish (roasted vegetables, whole-grain bread, a lean cut of meat) to your clan's holiday spread, or offer to cook at least one meal if you're visiting for more than a few days, suggests Frey. When you can't control the menu, practice diplomacy. Don't throw a hissy fit over the lack of fruits and veggies, but stand firm when Grandma tries to force-feed you that extra helping of greasy mac and cheese. Also, be a good guest and burn some serious calories by helping to clear the table, pitching in with household chores or running errands — anything to avoid sitting and nibbling.
Trap 2: Abundant Alcohol
People love to belly up to the bar around the holidays. But alcohol can pack a double whammy, delivering up to 400 calories per drink and eliminating inhibitions—which could lead to overeating as well as dancing on tables.
Strategic sidestep: Choose nonalcoholic drinks such as seltzer and cranberry juice. Drink from the same type of glass used for mixed drinks, complete with a lime and a swizzle stick, and you'll avoid the "Oh, you're not drinking?" hassles. If you do hit the sauce, stick to light beer or wine, nurse each drink long as you can and alternate with a glass of water. Whatever you do, skip the eggnog—even without the booze, it's 300 calories per cup!
Trap 3: Bountiful Buffets
It's the season of smorgasbords, which can leave guests feeling bloated and depressed. "Almost everyone overeats at buffets," says Zelman. "There's just too much variety—and too much food—to practice restraint."
Strategic sidestep: Eat a healthful mini meal (a sandwich or a bowl of cereal) before going to parties, and wear something that's snug around your waist, says Zelman. When you hit the buffet, load up on veggies, salad greens and sliced meat, then add a few decadent things on top. The key is to think "dinner" rather than compiling a mountain of snacks. Prepare a plate for yourself, then sit down away from the buffet to eat. When you're finished, go socialize—and forget seconds.
Trap 4: Sugar Overload
Experts know that humans are genetically wired to seek sweets and that chocolate contains mood-boosting chemicals. But understanding the science doesn't help us get through the season of candy and cookies without putting on five pounds.
Strategic sidestep: Embrace the holidays in all their sticky splendor, but indulge that sweet tooth with a single treat per meal (or party) and really savor it. "Eating chocolate or some other holiday treat really can make you feel good, so take your time and enjoy it," says Frey. Mindlessly munching on candy or cookies robs you of this pleasure—and piles on the calories.
Trap 5: Crazy Consumption
'Tis the season of excess. And nowhere is this more evident than at the traditional holiday meal. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories during a holiday feast: approximately 3,000 calories at the table plus another 1,500 in nibbles before and after the main meal. That's more than twice the calories we should be eating all day!
Strategic sidestep: Listen to your body, says Zelman. "Stop eating when you're full, not when everyone else does," she says. "Remind yourself that your goal is to celebrate the occasion with people you love, not to eat as much as is humanly possible."
Trap 6: Finger Foods
Many a dieter has fallen prey to the cocktail party, where innocent-looking tidbits can pack a mean caloric punch. Needless nibbling isn't reserved for black-tie functions: Hanging around the kitchen (or "helping" with dinner), watching the game with a big bowl of nuts, or decorating cookies and eating all the "rejects" can be equally problematic.
Strategic sidestep: At parties, skip anything that requires a napkin (typically the greasiest, most fattening choices). Wherever you are, focus on connecting with other people, says Frey. If you're eating, it should be because you're hungry, not because you feel awkward or bored. Throw yourself into a conversation, and you'll be less tempted to nosh.
Trap 7: Loony Schedules
During the holiday months, you're staying out late, drinking more than usual and eating random foods at random times. Healthful eating and exercise? Mere memories.
Strategic sidestep: Eat enough high-quality foods (think complex carbs such as fruits and veggies) to keep your blood sugar steady, thus preventing those mid-afternoon energy crashes that make you devour the entire gingerbread house. And be sure to squeeze in little sessions of exercise. "For the time and effort it takes, exercise pays you back in spades — physically, psychologically and calorically," says Zelman.
Trap 8: Road Trips
For many of us, the holidays mean traveling, which is fraught with dietary perils ranging from roadside concessions to gargantuan restaurant meals.
Strategic sidestep: Pack nutritious snacks, including seltzer and fresh fruit and vegetables; don't leave yourself open to airport or rest-stop fare. At restaurants, avoid anything Alfredo (creamy), au gratin (cheesy) or crispy (fried).
Calories need to band together and hire a public relations firm to make over their image. In the minds of many American women, the word ‘calorie’ connotes a bad, bad thing. But the truth is that calories are simply a unit of measure, used to describe the amount of potential energy contained in a given food, explains Kristine Clark, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. A high-calorie food delivers more firepower than a low-calorie food, so it can get you through a day of chasing the kids or hiking the trails better than its low-cal cousins.
Of course, if you're not doing anything strenuous, extra calories can just make you fat. Knowing how many calories is just right is a challenge, but the more you know about this nifty measurement, the better. Take this quiz to up your calorie IQ!
1. The best way to slim down is to cut back on calories.
2. Which of these activities burns the most calories per hour?
b. Jumping rope
3. Which of these activities causes your body to burn extra calories?
a. Eating a meal
b. Exercising in cold weather
c. Using lots of spices
d. All of the above
4. Which of these snacks is the most nutritious low-calorie option?
a. A bagel and a banana
b. A protein shake
c. Whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cottage cheese
d. A hot dog with the works
5. Which health club machine burns the most calories per hour?
c. Elliptical trainer
d. Rowing machine
6. Fitting in several short bursts of physical activity throughout the day burns just as many calories as a single workout session.
7. Who is burning the most calories?
a. Bob, a marathon runner who is jogging through his neighborhood
b. Betty, who is overweight and sedentary, walking through the mall
c. Bill, who cycles every weekend and is halfway through his five-mile bike ride
d. Brenda, a gym rat who is finishing her usual 20 minutes on the StairMaster
Here are the answers:
1. The best way to slim down is to cut back on calories.
The correct answer is "False"
Cutting calories is only half the equation. To lose weight, you also have to boost your metabolism, which is the rate at which your body burns calories. If you just decrease your caloric intake without increasing your metabolic rate by building up lean muscles and doing cardiovascular exercise, your body functions will eventually become sluggish and losing weight will be an uphill battle. The balanced approach to weight loss is to limit your consumption to approximately 1,800 calories a day and make physical activity a regular part of your life.
2. Which of these activities burns the most calories per hour?
The correct answer is "Jumping rope"
Research shows that short, high-intensity workouts such as jumping rope can burn more calories than a lengthier, more leisurely workout such as taking a bike ride or jogging through the park. A 130-pound woman can burn as many as 600 calories an hour jumping rope at a moderate pace, compared to approximately 400 to 500 an hour running, cycling or swimming. Of course, running, swimming and cycling are excellent forms of exercise for other reasons, not the least of which is they condition your heart more efficiently than anaerobic (short-burst) forms of exercise, says Bruce Craig, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Ball State University.
3. Which of these activities causes your body to burn extra calories?
The correct answer is "All of the above"
All these activities can give your metabolism a boost. "Eating elevates the metabolism because the body has to digest, absorb and process all those nutrients," explains Dr. Clark. Being cold also revs up your body because it works overtime to stay warm, says Clark. As for spices, a handful of studies have shown that seasonings such as cayenne pepper can increase metabolic rate slightly. The lesson? "Try to eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism fairly steady, and add some pepper," recommends Clark. And try to stay cool. "I'm not recommending that you move to the Arctic Circle," she says, "but we know that people are more likely to be active — and exercise at a higher level when they feel cooler. Being too warm discourages you from exercising hard."
4. Which of these snacks is the most nutritious low-calorie option?
The correct answer is "Whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cottage cheese"
If you're just crunching numbers, the crackers and cottage cheese win, racking up approximately 250 calories, compared to roughly 380 for the bagel and banana, 300 for the shake, and (wow!) more than 500 calories for the dressed dog. The crackers and cheese win for another reason: "Among foods with similar calorie counts, you should pick foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, and beans," advises Clark. "They'll keep you from feeling hungry but also make your body work harder to digest them." You should also eat foods that contain healthy amounts of protein and fat, which take hours longer to digest than carbs, thus boosting your metabolism.
5. Which health club machine burns the most calories per hour?
The correct answer is "Treadmill"
A 130-pound woman exercising at a tough-but-not-impossible intensity on the treadmill burns approximately 700 calories per hour, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise. It's essentially a three-way tie between the stair-stepper, elliptical trainer and rowing machine, each of which burns roughly 600 calories per hour. But remember, the all-important factor is "the intensity of the exercise, not the machine you're using," says Mike Harding, an engineer with Schwinn Fitness, an exercise equipment manufacturer in Boulder, Colorado. To get the best results, be sure you're working out hard enough by using the "talk test." You should be breathless enough to make conversation challenging but not too pooped that you can't chat with your neighbor.
6. Fitting in several short bursts of physical activity throughout the day burns just as many calories as a single workout session.
The correct answer is "True"
The jury is still out on which type of exercise is best for long-term weight control, but in terms of plain, old calorie consumption, it appears to be a tie. Many people find it easier to do short bursts of exercise throughout the day, and studies have shown that exercise newbies are more likely to stick with a fitness regimen when it is broken down into smaller components. However, once your fitness level improves, try to shoot for longer, higher-intensity workouts, says Dr. Craig. "Sustained effort is necessary to build your strength and endurance, reduce your body fat and increase your metabolic efficiency," he says.
7. Who is burning the most calories?
The correct answer is "Betty, who is overweight and sedentary, walking through the mall"
This riddle illustrates the complexity of calorie counting. "The calories you're burning depends on many things, including your fitness level and the intensity of the activity," says Dr. Bryant. In this question, Bob, Bill and Brenda are fit and exercising at a level that’s easy for them, so they're actually burning fewer calories than Betty, who is unaccustomed to exertion and is walking much farther than she’s used to. The key is context, says Craig. "A well-trained athlete who consistently does the same workout becomes more efficient than someone for whom the exercise is more challenging," he explains. To maximize your caloric combustion, challenge your body to do new activities and work out longer and harder. Vary your routine and you'll get the maximum benefit from all that sweat.
What Your Score Means
0-2 correct answers = You’re Calorie Confused
Your calorie IQ is below par. Misconceptions can make it hard to eat properly and maintain a healthy weight, as can buying into some popular weight-loss myths, such as the one that says you'll only lose weight by starving yourself or spending at least an hour a day at the gym. Nourish yourself with a better understanding of food energy and eating healthfully—and read on for some helpful information.
3-4 correct answers = You’re Calorie Cool
You know a thing or two about your calories, don't you? Still, the holes in your knowledge may be holding you back from achieving optimum nutrition and fitness. Many women rely on outdated or incorrect information regarding nutrition, such as a 10-year-old diet book or, even worse, a rice-cake-addicted co-worker. Read on for some real-deal information that can help you live healthier than ever!
5-7 correct answers = You’re a Calorie Champ
Congratulations! You know your caloric stuff, and if you're smart enough to put your wisdom to use, you're probably pretty healthy, too. Keep up the good work and stay informed on the latest nutrition research and guidelines. You can start right now by reading on for some in-depth insight into our quiz questions (and answers).
Lose Five Pounds
Forget the diet shakes and fashion-model portions.
Just a few tweaks to your routine and you'll be five pounds lighter
in a month
a runner, you’re already in on the best-kept secret of weight
control. “Running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories,” says
Cathy Feiseler, M.D., a sports medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic.
How efficient? Depending on your gender, body size and running pace, you
can incinerate between 500 and 1,300 calories per hour of running – a
number that blows most other forms of exercise out of the water.
But being a runner doesn’t automatically ensure you a greyhound-like
physique. Plenty of us are carrying around some extra pounds that we’d
just love to get rid of. One way to do this is to add a few more miles
to your program, but there are plenty of other strategies as well, and
none of them involve dieting. With this 4-week plan, you simply focus on
the workouts – with a few sensible lifestyle and eating tips thrown
in for good measure.
A Plan of Action
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. That should
be totally doable with our program, which calls for six workouts per week:
two days of strength training, three days of shorter-distance runs and
one day of longer distance.
You should figure on incorporating a 10-percent-per-week increase in
your weekly running mileage, to be divided evenly between one of your
runs and your longer-distance effort. In other words, if you’re now
running 20 miles a week, your first week’s increase will be two
The plan calls for similar increases in your strength-training workouts.
As for the calories you’ll be burning, remember that your total
will depend on your gender, pace and body size. (Note: As a rule, because
physiological differences, men are better calorie burners than women,
and larger people normally burn more calories during a given exercise
than smaller people.)
Lastly, when following the plan, be as consistent as possible: Don’t
eat like crazy and sit around all week, then try to make up for it by fasting
and running 20 miles over the weekend. On the other hand, don’t go
nuts trying to hit your mark every day, either. If your mileage falls a
little short or if you don’t lift as much as was called for, that’s
no big deal. Just try to catch up later on in the week.
to Get Started
Below is a sample week from your 4-week plan. Feel free to
personalize this schedule. For example, if Saturday is a
better day for you to run long, do that – and
switch your day off to Sunday.
Monday: Shorter distance
Tuesday: Strength train
Wednesday: Shorter distance, extended by half your weekly
mileage increase. (If you’re increasing your total mileage by 4 miles
this week, increase both this run and your Sunday run by 2 miles.)
Thursday: Strength train
Friday: Shorter distance
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: Longer distance, extended by half your weekly mileage increase
Monday: Even if you just grab an energy bar before your run, be sure to
eat breakfast. Almost 80 percent of successful dieters eat breakfast every
Tuesday: To burn more calories at the gym, simply work out a little longer
than you usually do. Five minutes more of strength training can burn an
extra 40 or 50 calories.
Wednesday: Increase this shorter run by half of your planned increase for
Thursday: Back at the gym, take less time between exercise stations. Switching
from 30-seconds of lifting and 1 minute of rest to 1 minute of lifting
and 30 seconds resting increases your calorie burn by almost 20 percent.
Friday: After your run, take tea time. Research shows that drinking oolong
or green tea speeds fat metabolism.
Saturday: Burn some calories around the house. An hour with a hedge clipper
can burn up to 400 calories. Gardening costs you about 250 in the same
amount of time. Even ironing burns about 50 calories in 30 minutes.
Sunday: Extend your long run (add the other half of
your weekly mileage increase) and throw in a leisurely bike ride later
in the day. An easy
2 hours of bicycling can burn up to 1,000 calories—and more if
you push it a bit.
Bonus advice for the week: If you have dinner out with a group, try to
stay cognizant of your food intake. A recent study found that people who
dine en masse eat twice as much, on average, as those who eat alone.
Monday: Mix some short pick-ups into your regular
run. Don’t sprint—just
pick up the pace so there’s a noticeable difference from your
regular training pace. Adding 10 x 30-second speed sessions will increase
metabolic burn by about 100 calories.
Tuesday: While you’re lifting, stay hydrated—but trade the
sports drink for plain old water. You’ll save 50 calories for
every 8 ounces of fluid you drink.
Wednesday: Once again, up your distance by half your weekly increase.
Every additional mile nets you an additional 100 calories burned.
Thursday: At the gym, stretch the time you spend on
each lift to make your workout slightly longer – and tougher
(10 minutes more equals an extra 80 calories burned).
Friday: Run easy, then try to stay on your feet more
throughout the rest of the day. For example, stand when you’re
on the phone or talking to colleagues at work. The reason? Standing
burns 1.7 times more calories
Saturday: Take a hike. In 2 hours of trekking, you’ll burn between
800 and 1,200 calories. Carry a 25-pound pack and you’ll burn
an extra 200 more.
Sunday: Run long, then hit the pool for a few laps.
In 15 minutes of leisurely swimming, you’ll burn between 125
and 175 calories. Pick up the pace, and tack on at least 30 more.
Bonus advice for the week: Don’t always trust your gut. Most people
underestimate their daily food intake by about 20 percent (that’s
400 calories for someone eating 2,000 calories a day). If you really want
to figure out how many calories you’re taking in, keep a 3- or
5-day food diary. (For an online option, log onto www.nutrawatch.com.)
Monday: After your easy run, find a hill or stairway
and do some uphill repeats. In just 10 minutes, you’ll burn
at least 150 calories.
Tuesday: Strength train—and make a conscious effort to eat more
slowly all day long, which will cause you to eat less overall. Why? Because
there’s a lag time between being full and feeling full, and if you’re
eating more slowly you’ll eat less during that lag.
Wednesday: Increase the distance on your shorter run.
And pretend you’re
Amish today. Abandon all machines—your car, the elevator, whatever
mechanized mode of transportation you use every day—and get
around the old-fashioned way. In the office, talk to your colleagues
rather than e-mailing or calling them. Every one of these actions burns
Thursday: After the gym, treat yourself to a few whiffs
of vanilla and peppermint—and keep some scents at home and
at the office, too. These aromas can curb your appetite, according
Friday: Run easy, and make a conscious effort to “graze” throughout
the day (instead of loading your plate at regular meal times). When you
don’t eat for several hours, your metabolism drops. Best to keep
it stoked by eating a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Added
bonus: You’ll probably eat less at your regular meals.
Saturday: Try a new cross-training activity. An hour
of pick-up basketball burns up to 450 calories. An hour of Frisbee, almost
300. And soccer? Around
Sunday: Finish off your run with a few sets of pull-ups,pushups and crunches. Ten minutes burns at least 80 calories. Plus,
you’ll create contributes to calorie burning down the road.
Bonus advice for the week: Make a habit of brushing
your teeth right after dinner (and other meals). It’ll make you less inclined to snack.
you're Amish today. Abandon all machines.
Monday: Run easy, but finish off with 8 to 10 pickups
(speed intervals) of about 100 meters each. It’ll make you fitter
and burn extra calories, as well.
Tuesday: When lifting, add an extra exercise or two
to your routine. Then lift slowly—it’ll burn more calories.
Wednesday: Increase your short run mileage. And when
for your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, take a walk break to
Thursday: At the gym, throw in some rope jumping after your strength workout.
Sound too easy to bother with? Try it. Even five minutes can burn at least
Friday: Get your run done, then go dancing. An hour of serious rug-cutting
burns between 300 and 400 calories.
Saturday: Slap on the inline skates and do some ‘blading.
An hour of skating burns more than 750 calories. And talk about a fun
Sunday: Bump up your long run by half your weekly
mileage increase, then spend an hour washing the car (it’ll burn
around 300 calories). Have two cars? By all means, wash both.
Bonus advice for the week: When you shop, buy food in smaller packages.
Research shows that people are likely to eat significantly more of a food
when it comes in a larger package.
Five “Good” Habits That Hurt
You just may be sabotaging your diet, your fitness—and
it comes to our health, some of our most cherished assumptions—about
eating, working out, staying slim and maintaining relationships—are
wrong. In fact, some of our most “healthy” convictions
can be downright dangerous. Here are five of the most commonly made
Mistake #1 “I’ve
practically eliminated the carbs from my diet.”
Carbohydrates are vital to the human diet, despite what
the high-protein proponents
maintain. Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel, both for
our muscles and for our brains. Eliminating carbs from your diet—or cutting
back drastically—can lead to a host of problems, including short-term
memory loss, fatigue and diminished energy, and several vitamin and mineral deficiencies
(which carry their own ill effects). According to Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., a professor
of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia and author of The Spark (Simon
and Schuster, 2000), “The underlying problem with a high-protein
diet is the lack of nutrition. There are a lot of very good, healthy nutrients
packed into carbohydrates.” When you cut the carbs, you’re also missing
out on fiber, which is essentially what separates the “good” (complex,
nutrient-rich) carbohydrates from the “bad” (refined, non-nutritious)
Better Idea While calorie-dense,
highly refined carbohydrates have gotten a justifiably bad rap, most nutrition
scientists agree that the
staple of any healthy
diet is carbohydrates. And those carbohydrates should come from a variety of
whole (read: unrefined) foods. “Look for foods that are as unprocessed
as possible,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer. Vegetables and whole grains
are best, followed by fruits, high-fiber breads and whole-grain pastas. The worst
choices are cakes and candy, white bread and crackers – in that order,
she says. “If you can make every one of your daily carbohydrate servings
a whole-grain choice, you’ll be better off,” she says. “The
research has shown over and over again that whole grains reduce the risk of disease
and help you maintain a healthy weight. They’ve got a completely clean
bill of health. It’s the refined stuff you should be worried about.”
Mistake #2 “I
never miss a day at the gym.”
The truth is, everyone needs a break from their workout
Olympic athletes—for two reasons. First, your body needs new
challenges in order to maintain or improve fitness. Second, over-training
to a long list of problems, including muscle aches and damage, joint
injuries, diminished energy, unrelenting fatigue, decreased immunity,
says Jack Raglin, Ph.D., an associate professor of kinesiology at
Indiana University, Bloomington, who studies the psychological and physical
of exercise overload. If you never miss a day at the gym, that means
nothing in your life that’s more important than the gym,” he
Better Idea If
up for an event like a 10K, you might push yourself harder than usual.
at other times, give yourself a break.
Don’t abandon exercise entirely, but take a vacation from your
usual routine. Take a walk outside. Schedule days off and enjoy some
with friends. Flexibility is the key. The truth is that going as
long as a week without breaking a sweat won’t impact your fitness
going too long without taking a break from your workout definitely
a case of diminishing returns,” Raglin says. “Doing more
and more, without building rest and recovery into your routine, does
you less and less good.”
a gym break: You can skip an entire week without significantly
reducing your fitness
gotten my body fat down to 18 percent.”
women substitute control over diet and exercise for control over
some other aspect of their lives, like their jobs or relationships,
Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy
Institute. And it’s a habit that can be downright addicting. “Whenever
you get extreme about something, whether it’s work or working
out, that should be a warning to you,” she says. “You
might be using that activity to try to create a change in another
part of your life—and
that strategy never works.” Kearney-Cooke says that some
women instinctively focus on what they can control, like what they
eat or how they exercise.
Then, with each victory achieved over their bodies, they’re
encouraged to do even more.
But just as O.D.ing on exercise can backfire, whittling away at
your body fat can be dangerous. Fat serves a real purpose—it
and internal organs—and it’s necessary for the production
of vital hormones like estrogen. When body fat dips to low, you go into
famine mode, which effectively shuts down all non life-supporting functions,
like ovulating and building new bone and other tissue. In many cases, says
Indiana University’s Jack Raglin, the damage caused by this work
stoppage can be permanent. “Estrogen is involved in the creation
of bone, which is mostly completed while you’re in your 20s,” he
explains. “If you interfere with that, you could be in big
[bone-density] trouble for the rest of your life.”
Better Idea Wanting
to maintain a lean and healthy body is an admirable—and
widely recommended—goal. But the key to keeping any goal
on track is to see it as part of the bigger picture, says Kearney-Cooke.
that working out and eating healthfully are just two elements of
a healthy life; they must be balanced with the other essential
elements of health,
including family, work and spirituality. “Ask yourself, ‘What
would happen if I didn’t achieve this goal?’ It shouldn’t
feel like the end of the world.” Instead of striving for an
ever-more-miniscule number on the body-fat monitor (or on the scale),
put the emphasis on building more muscle. “Most
physically active women fall between 20 and 27 percent body fat,” says
Carol L. Otis, M.D., a sports medicine physician and author of The
Athletic Woman’s Survival Guide (Human Kinetics, 2000). “Everyone
is different, though. If you are eating well and exercising regularly,
your body will find its natural body-fat level – and there
is no advantage to going lower than that.”
Mistake #4 “I’ve stuck
it out, regardless, in my job (or relationship).”
It’s unhealthy to stick with anything that’s making you unhappy—and
that includes relationships, both personal and professional, says Beverly
Whipple, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of psychobiology at Rutgers University
College of Nursing in Newark, N.J. The stress that comes from ongoing conflict,
resentment or discontent leaves you feeling powerless – and it can
take years off your life. Research shows that if you’re in an unresolved
stressful situation for longer than a few months, you’re setting
yourself up for physical problems like headaches, hair loss, skin disorders
and digestive woes in the short term—and increased risk
for heart disease over the long term. Beyond that, the psychological
toll can range
from grouchiness and insomnia to full-on depression.
Better Idea Leaving
a job, a romantic relationship or any other long-term alliance
is never easy. But if you’re not happy,
your fist step should be to ask yourself what, exactly, is missing
from the situation, Whipple
says. Maybe your marriage has you feeling sexually or emotionally
starved; maybe you feel stifled at the office because your boss
quashed your promotion.
Take stock of your feelings, then start talking. You and your partner
may want to seek counseling, either together or individually. At
might be able to change departments (and bosses) or renegotiate
your responsibilities. You must determine how long you’ve
been putting up with a bad situation—and
how much of your health you’re willing to sacrifice in order
ILLUSTRATED FOR WOMEN
Power at the Plate
How much protein do you really need to
at your best? Here's
the latest on this often-misunderstood nutrient
after winning a gold medal with the US hockey team at the 1998 Nagano
Granato was wiped out. A series of medical exams pointed to anemia—blamed,
in part, on a lack of protein in her diet. So she added protein-rich
foods like nuts, tuna fish and cottage cheese to her daily fare—which
before then had been built around high-carb choices like pasta
overcame her anemia. In the process, she also noticed improvements
in her game. “I was stronger in the weight room, had more endurance,
skated better and was just more alert and awake,” she says.
it comes to skimping on protein, Granato is definitely not alone.
Athletes from many sports have improved their
performance by adding
a little meat (or milk or even soy) to their plates.“Protein
is critical for repairing and maintaining cells as well as
building more muscle,” says
Tammy Baker, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association
(ADA) in Scottsdale, Ariz. “So you definitely need
more if you're exercising a lot."
But protein is not a panacea, says Priscilla Clarkson,
a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Massachusetts.
Taking in too
either by overdosing on supplements and shakes or by following
a super-high-protein diet, may actually harm your performance
playing field – and
your health overall.
Although protein is a muscle's best friend, Clarkson says, carbs should
still be your primary source of fuel, both for quick bursts as well as
endurance endeavors. Diets that sacrifice the bun for the burger (or cut
back on carbs too much in other ways) can leave you feeling lethargic and
unable to perform at your best. In addition, protein is digested more slowly
than carbohydrates, meaning that eating a protein-rich food before exercising
can upset your stomach and actually delay muscle refueling.
Eating excessive amounts of protein can also put a strain on your kidneys,
as they're forced to eliminate more nitrogen, a byproduct of
protein metabolism. The body gets rid of nitrogen through urine, says
Baker, so one result
of protein overload can be dehydration.
Know your needs
How do you figure out the optimal amount of protein for you?
First, assess your calorie (and protein) needs based on your
level, says Roxanne
Moore, an ADA spokesperson based in Baltimore. If you don't
exercise at all, you need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram
kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds). Thus, a sedentary person
weighing 130 pounds would require about 47 grams of protein
a day – not
a lot. Simply having milk in your morning coffee, a tuna salad
sandwich at lunch
and a portion of turkey (or tofu) at dinner would cover it.
Active women, of course, need more. If you exercise about an
hour a day, you need between 1.2 and 1.4 grams of protein per
you weigh 130 pounds, that's 72 to 80 grams of protein a day.
If you're doing
a lot of resistance training, you should aim for about 94 grams
a day. (For tips on where to get those grams, see “Protein Planner,” below.)
Despite claims from high-protein advocates, most nutritionists
say that protein should not be the centerpiece of your menu.
of us, it
should make up 15% of our daily calories, with the balance
coming from carbs (60% to 70%) and fats (15% to 25%). If you're
the average Jane, your calorie needs will go up, but this ration
“When you exercise, your overall calorie needs increase, not just your
protein requirements,” says Baker. Elite athletes like Granato might be
encouraged to get as much as 120 or 130 grams of protein a day, but they are
eating—and burning—3,000 or more calories per
day. So that 120 grams of protein takes up the same amount of
space in Granato’s
diet as 70 grams might in yours. Ounce for ounce, protein counts
as much as carbohydrates do in terms of calories (each has
four calories per
gram). Fat, by the way, has nine calories per gram.
One final note: When you're doing your meal planning, remember
that there are very few “pure” food
sources of any nutrient, so even if you're a vegetarian or you can't
you'll find protein in plenty of sources (including orange
cereal) outside the meat and dairy cases.
about how to get enough protein in a day? You don't need
to rely on shakes, powders or even prime rib. Below are some tasty places to find it, whether
you prefer meat or veggies
|1 cup raisin
1 cup fat-free milk (8g)
1 ounce wheat germ (8g)
1 serving turkey sausage (8g)
turkey breast (15g)
1 slice Swiss cheese (8g)
cottage cheese (14g)
container of yogurt (10g)
|1/2 cup tofu
with vegetables (20g)
pork chops (20g)
Chew on This
it seems like everyone's on the snack track. Here's
why we're all munching
You know you're not supposed to be doing it. It'll spoil your appetite
and your waistline, and besides, it's tacky. But you're doing it anyway.
So put down the cookies and pay attention, please. This is important.
How did I know you'd be eating while reading this magazine? I know because
I'm doing the same sort of thing myself: typing and munching
and hoping I don't drop too many crumbs into my computer keyboard.
This kind of multitasking is just one manifestation Americans'
ongoing fight with our food. We eat too much, we eat the
wrong stuff, and
in between, we keep on eating. Sure, we've heard we're supposed
mindfully—relish the food and the experience. Only we have become the
perpetual munching machine. The prevalence of food and the
of rules about where
it's proper to eat have made every day a nonstop food festival.
The results aren't pretty. Consider this:
As a nation, we're packing on the pounds. Everyone knows
that too much food leads to weight gain. But while two-thirds
they're on a diet, only about a fifth of us are actually
doing what we're supposed
to do: eat less, exercise more. The one improvement we've
fat intake—has backfired. While we have reduced the percentage
of fat and our diets, we've upped our overall calorie intake. We opt for
low-fat foods, then gorge on them. "Eating lots of low-fat products
lulls you into believing that you're somehow getting a free ride on the
calorie train," says Art Campfield, a researcher at the Center for
Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in
Denver. "But a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." And then,
of course, there's portion size. "Supersizing is a retail concept
that's taken over the country," says Campfield. "If
the portion is a healthy, normal size, people feel ripped
off. So even
supposed to be a snack, we want it huge."
The result: According to a recent issue of the journal Science, obesity
is at an all-time high, with more than 54 percent of American adults considered
overweight and 22 percent considered obese. And that percentage of obese
Americans has increased by half in less than a decade.
The social climate hasn't helped. As our society has generally
become more informal, one change has gone straight to our
and when one
eats has lost all taboos. Places where nibbling was unheard
of just a few years ago—Church! The library!—are starting to see crumbs. "My
husband and I were at a concert of a world-famous pianist," says Kathy
Cohn, a children's book author in San Francisco, "when suddenly, we
heard all these crinkling noises coming from behind us. It was two people
unwrapping big deli sandwiches. And the noise wasn't even the worst part," she
says. "It was the smell."
nonstop noshing just an American thing? Paul Rozin, a psychology
professor at the University of Pittsburgh, recently
to the eating habits
and attitudes of Americans to those of the French, Japanese,
and Belgians. The verdict: The French are the most concerned
Americans the least. Instead, Americans say they're most concerned about
Sounds good, except that we seem to be talking out of both sides
of our overstuffed mouths. We health-obsessed Americans have significantly
higher rates of heart disease and obesity than those hedonistic French.
According to Rozin, beyond the obvious difference between Baked Lays and
baked Brie lies this notion: "In France, people associate food with
pleasure. In this country, we associate it with guilt." Thus, the
French have highly structured meals of moderate total quantity (no wonder
the word "etiquette" comes from the French), while American's chow
informally on less-palatable but "healthier" foods
such as reduced-fat cheese or low-sodium crackers and place
where, or how
much they eat.
So how did this happen? After all, it isn't this the smartest,
most innovative nation around, the one that put a man on
the moon and
Here are a few of the reasons behind our national snack-attack—and
why we can't seem to stop.
Reason No. 1: Megabites, anyone?
Never in history has food been so close at hand for so
many people. Drug stores, gas stations, and shopping malls—not to mention grocery
and "convenience" stores—are jammed with a variety of
foods earlier generations only dreamed of. Without putting a pack on your
back and heading into the wilderness, it's hard to be more than minutes
from a food outlet. Limitless choices have helped to create a nation of
nibblers, Campfield says. "You feel compelled to eat
more when you're given lots of choices. So if the portions
get you to
smorgasbord-like selection certainly will."
Nutritionists and other experts are quick to note that
variety is still a good thing when it comes to eating—it makes meals more palatable
and ensures you'll get more of the various nutrients you need. But it can
also encourage you to eat too much. "After a few bites of practically
any food, the pleasantness of the food decreases," explains Campfield. "It's
called sensory-specific satiety. So if you're not paying
close attention, you can easily eat an extra calories in
a few difference
Reason No. 2: sic transit Oreo
Gone are the days when we'd never, ever be caught eating
anywhere in public that wasn't a table in a restaurant.
Now, as Cole
Porter would say, anything
goes. "I have clients come in and eat entire meal in the chair while
I'm trying to cut their hair," says Jeffrey Lyle, a hairstylist. Clare
Horn, a magazine editor, recalls going on a job interview and watching
her would-be employer casually unwrap a bagel and start buttering it. "She
asked questions with her mouth full, but I suppose she
gets half a point for politeness, because she did ask if
"Something has happened," Campfield says, "to make it possible
for us to eat all the time. It now seems to be OK to have
a bag of chips, or even your whole lunch, wherever you happen to be." Of
course, much of this is purely an American phenomenon. Joe Husman, a marketing
with a Japanese auto maker, recalls giving an angry hand
and desist"—from a corporate executive while
munching on pretzels during a meeting. "I felt that
it was appropriate to be eating because the meeting had spilled
over into lunchtime," he says. "But
apparently that's not the case in Japan. And it seems the guy was having trouble hearing over my crunching
Thanks to portable treats—one-handed toaster pastries, colossal
travel mugs—it's possible to each in the most awkward places. "I've
watched people eat everything, including salads with dressing, on the subway," says
Anthony Cady, a freelance book dealer. "I was on a very crowded bus
and things were already way too close for comfort," says Adam Ried,
a cook. "Then the woman standing over my seat reached
into her bag, pulled out a big, juicy, fresh peach, and
over my head."
Reason No. 3: Highway to 7-Eleven
But even the most food-friendly mass-transit system
can't compare to the moveable feast that is America's
roadways. One need
drive only a few blocks in most places before seeing some type
of fast-food outlet:
McDonald's (24,000 worldwide), a 7-Eleven (6,307 in the
United States), or a gas station outfitted with a mini-mart
grocery stores to shame. When I was training for a marathon
last year, a friend asked me if I planned to stop along the course
couldn't drive that far without a snack," he said
We are a nation notorious for eating in our cars, and according to the
National Restaurant Association, more than half of us admit to eating entire
meals behind the wheel. According to Technomic, a food industry group,
we spend roughly half of our restaurant dollars on fast food or takeout;
of the takeout orders, only half are consumed in the privacy of home. Of
the rest, roughly half goes down in the car.
Of course, eating while driving has its drawbacks. You
get all that powdered donut sugar on your clothes, and
like Big Macs off-limits to all but the most dexterous.
It's also dangerous. Cohn spent a month in the hospital
a wheelchair after
the car she was riding in was struck head-on. "I thought that the
other driver must have been drunk," she says "but it turned out
he was eating—he'd dropped his sandwich and was reaching down to
pick it up." The Highway Safety Administration estimates that 7 percent
of all fatal car crashes were caused by driver in attentiveness—and/or
eating. Thousands more fatalities are due to careless
driving, often the result of juggling food and a gear
for nonfatal collisions,
National Safety Council blames more than 65% on driver
errors such as eating.
Reason No. 4: Run, cola, run
Maybe we're eating in the car or in the concert hall
because we really are too busy to eat anywhere else.
admits to eating lunch (or a series of small meals) at their desk
at work. And
of us with good manners have been known to scarf down
a snack while walking from one appointment to the next.
perfected the art
of simultaneously jaywalking, writing in my Palm Pilot,
and eating an energy
bar.) "I'm moving around all day, so the only time I have to eat is
in between appointments," says Chris Andrews, a software salesman. "I
don't know anybody who actually eats meals sitting down
anymore, at least on a regular basis."
Of course, even the most crowded schedule can be manipulated
to include a few minutes of uninterrupted eating. But
that we're all telling ourselves we're too busy to eat — and then simply giving
in to the urge to dine and dash. "Doing lots of things at once makes
people feel more efficient, even if they're not doing a very good job at
any of them," says Kathryn Sucher, a professor of nutrition and food
science at San Jose State University. "We just don't
take the time to plan, sit, and eat a healthy meal."
Reason No. 5: Channel scarfing
These days, it's just no fun unless there's food involved.
Movies and popcorn go together like... well, like baseball
hot dogs. As our leisure-time
entertainments have become more passive, our hand-mouth
coordination has improved remarkably. "Americans have
gotten used to eating
at the movies and in front of the TV, so now we automatically associate
activities with snacks," says Sucher. "Nibbling seems to make
people feel relaxed, and it's mildly entertaining on its own—stimulating
and gratifying at the same time. "
Right now, even if you're not already halfway through
a package of Twizzlers or considering heading into
count on advertising to remind you that you could be
eating. According to Advertising Age, food companies
$9 billion on advertising
annually—that's more than 11 percent of total advertising expenditures
among all industries combined. If you watch TV, you won't go more than
15 minutes without seeing some sort of food or drink ad. "All
of these messages reinforce the subconscious belief that
you could be snacking," says
Reason No. 6: An unjust reward
Eating for psychological (vs. biological) reasons is
a well-established phenomenon, says Campfield. "We don't always look at food as nourishment," he
says. "More often, it's a tool to alter our mood." People do
have biological desires to eat, he says, but most of us are more used to
heeding a psychological dinner bell. "We eat to be sociable, to make
ourselves feel good, to give ourselves something to do." Evidence
also suggests that, like smell, taste can trigger memories.
Thus, you might reach for those animal-shaped cookies
when you feel
some non-food-related episode from childhood, he says.
Unfortunately, many of the warnings from the health
community against improper eating have backfired—instead of educated, we've become neurotic. "Food
is both a pleasure and a poison," says Rozin. "Some people say
they'd give up eating entirely rather than face that battle with every
bite." For example, Rozin recently polled female college students
on six campuses across United States and found that over 10 percent said
they'd be embarrassed to buy a chocolate bar in a store, and about 30 percent
said they would be willing to take a pill that served as a substitute for
eating. Rozin stresses that eating—or the desire to be eating—is
not inherently bad. And not just because you'd starve without it. "Eating
is a pleasurable activity," he says. "We humans have combined
it with social activities and a whole set of conventions, so it's an important
part of our lives." Campfield concurs: "One
thing we all look forward to every day is the pleasure
So what's the answer? Swear off the snacks forever? Or give in and replace
every healthful meal with a feast of fried chips and extruded puffs? Neither
one, say the experts. The best advice is to recognize the place that snacking
holds in your life and then make sure that it's a healthy one. If you're
aware of how often do it, you can much popcorn at the movies or chips at
your desk. And yes, you can have some more of whatever you were snacking
on when we began. You read this article all the way to the end. You've
to dampen your holiday spirits, but weight-wise, here's what you're
up against this season: You have to eat an extra 17,500
calories to put on five pounds (according to some sources, the average weight gain this time of year).
a lot, but realize that you have 37 days from Thanksgiving
to New Year's
to scarf them down—for a mere 473 extra calories
a day. Now look at a typical Thanksgiving feast: Turkey,
yams, stuffing, a buttered roll, pecan pie. The damage:
about 1,600 calories. Skipped your workout? Add another
the tally. Then
office party: crackers and cheese, chicken fingers, veggies
with dip, shrimp salad,
and wine, and there's another 1,700 calories. A few more
parties, some leftovers... and suddenly your five pounds
Losing it is a much tougher proposition. Without dieting,
a 143-pound woman walking briskly for a half-hour five
times a week would
need from January
1st to July 4th to take it all off. To make Valentine's
Day the deadline, she would also have to restrict herself
to 1,500 calories
per day—or run six 26.2-mile marathons.
So this holiday season, approach indulgence with the advantage of knowledge.
Enjoy, but eat smart.