I wondered if I could get some quick advice from you on weight loss? I've decided to compete another year in the Miss Michigan circuit which means winning another local to make it back to state. There is a local competition where I live coming up soon and I have gained some extra pounds lately with my new job (all the dinners and treats) I also have not recently been making time for the gym. I'm up about 15 pounds. Yikes! So I'm back at the gym and starting to monitor my diet again... I'm pretty good at food choices and such but didn't know if you had a "solid" you work off of that you could share with me.

I have spoken with hundreds of patients in a similar dilemma as you. Whether it is a new job with increased responsibilities, a move, or other stressful situations, sometimes a healthy diet and exercise takes a backseat to life. You have already taken the first important step to getting back on track. You are aware that changes need to be made, and you have contacted a dietitian for advice! The next step is to sit down and start to review what a “typical” day is like for you eating wise. Maybe do a few day food records, just to give you an idea of what you are taking in and when. Make sure you write down each and every bit of food or beverage that you consume, as many people may not record the handful of M & M’s and the few almonds that you snack on, but those few bites here and there can add up calorie wise. Once you have completed your food record, take a look to see if there are any immediate areas that need improving. For example, if you find yourself snacking each afternoon on cookies or sweets in the break room, make this an area of improvement. Ask yourself “am I truly hungry each afternoon when I snack” and if the answer is “yes”, plan ahead and pack yourself a healthy, low calorie snack (a piece of fruit, 2% string cheese, hummus and carrots, a fiber bar, etc). Review your portion sizes. If you typically eat out every day, make it a goal to pack your lunch 2 to 3 days a week. Not only will you save money, you will be able to save a lot of calories on those days. Restaurants want you to leave full, so the portion sizes on many “seemingly healthy” meals can really add up. Even some large entrée salads (with all the fixings) can have close to 800 calories in them. Pack yourself some broth based soup and a whole wheat roll or a whole wheat pita stuffed with lean turkey and lots of veggies. You can cut calories in half by doing this. The same goes to eating dinner out. Remove the bread basket from the table right away. You may wish to order a salad and appetizer as your main dish or split an entrée with a friend. Be careful with dishes that are immersed in “sauces” or that are breaded/fried, as these are typically higher in calories.

Evaluate the types of beverages that you are consuming. Many people drink a lot of calories without realizing it. If you are a soda drinker, start making changes and move in the direction of low sugar juice (Healthy Balance) or Crystal light. Experiment with flavored waters or simply fill a jug of your own water and chop cucumbers or lemons to add flavor. Invest in a sassy water bottle and begin to make it a habit to carry this around with you. If you enjoy an occasional after work cocktail, make sure you are aware of the heavy calorie hitters (daquiris and margaritas) and opt for red wine or a small drink of vodka and diet soda. And limit yourself to only one or two.

Nighttime eating/snacking can definitely pack on the pounds too. Be prepared for the evening “munchies” by having healthy but tasty fulfilling snacks around. Try a new flavored yogurt and mix with fresh fruit. Have a small bowl of your favorite cereal or opt for some oatmeal mixed with raisins. Low fat ice cream and frozen yogurt may also be good choices too, but be aware of what one portion is (1/2 cup) and try to stick to that. There are many pre packaged ice cream treats available that are around 100 calories a piece as well.

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