Posts Tagged ‘Calorie Counting’

Taking the byte out of dieting

July 12, 2011

Looking to watch what you eat, but hate keeping track of your meals in a food diary or snapping photos of everything you eat?  Then an app created for the iPhone and iPad is probably a good fit for you.  It’s called 80 bites and what is does is help you keep tabs on how many bites of food you’re taking daily.

The app is based on the assumption that 80 bites is all you need to be satisfied and lose weight.  And since most of us can’t chew and count at the same time, this app keeps track of those bites with just a tap on the screen.

Now, I’ve never used the 80 bites program and I’m not sure how many calories that works out to a day, but keeping an eye on what you eat is a good way to make sure the scale stays down.

The 80 bites app is available for $1 at 80bitesapp.com

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You Scream, I scream

May 11, 2011

Spring for me doesn’t just mean warmer weather and days spent enjoying the outdoors.  It also means ice cream.  This is going to sound crazy, but there’s something about sunny days that makes me want ice cream.  Doesn’t matter the flavor or whether it’s hard or soft serve, full fat or low-fat, I just desire a big bowl of it everyday.   Yes, folks, ice cream is my Achilles heel.

Sure I could buy the low-fat or sugar-free kind and eat a 1/2 cup serving each day, but the problem is, if there’s a container of it in my freezer, I rarely ever can stop after one scoop.  It draws me back one spoonful at a time and before I know it, it’s all gone.  And this cycle happens every time I buy it.  I try to convince myself that “This time I make it last,” but it never does.  And there’s no way I’m quitting it, so here’s the solution I’ve come up with that seems to work.

Instead of buying a pint or half-gallon, I buy single serving products.  I find I can more easily turn down a second or third serving if things are packaged separately.  Must be some kind of weird mental thing, but it works.  It also doesn’t hurt that those single servings cost more and so I’m more inclined to make them last.

You know what?  I think it’s time for some ice cream!  Right now I’m loving the Starbucks Ice Cream Bars…mmmmmm!

Equal Opportunity Eating Disorders

March 29, 2011

Pop quiz: When you think of a person who has an eating disorder what image comes to mind?

If you said a teenage girl, then you’re like most people, including myself.  Sure we’ve all heard the stats that teenage boys also suffer from eating disorders, but often it’s young girls who are the face of the disease.

But this is changing.

More and more, women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond are being diagnosed and treated for eating disorders.  And we’re not just talking about women who have relapsed.  Many have developed the disorders midlife.

When I first found this out it seemed strange because I’ve always thought of older women as people who are very secure in their lives and at peace with the way they look.  But it turns out they’re just as insecure as the rest of us.  They’re also not immune to the psychological stressors that lead to an eating disorder.  Where a young girl turns toward obsessive exercising and control over her diet as a way to deal with her parents’ divorce, an older women turns toward the same behaviors as a way to deal with her own divorce.

The reason why not much attention has been paid to this group until now is because the normal symptoms of an eating disorder are easier to conceal in older women.  If a teenage girl stops getting her period, it’s a big deal.  If a woman in her 50s stops getting hers, it’s chalked up to menopause.  Osteoporosis is a warning sign in a young girl, but women tend to lose bone density as they age, so once again a symptom is overlooked as just being a normal part of the aging process.

So what can be done?  The answer is as simple as getting the word out that eating disorders don’t just affect the young.  Like many illnesses, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can afflict any person no matter their age.  The next step would be to get these people the help they deserve.  Here are some resources:

Columbia Center for Eating Disorders at Columbia University

National Eating Disorder Association

Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

The 100 calorie rule

February 24, 2011

If you’re training for an endurance race like a half marathon, marathon or triathlon, you’ve probably read that you need to incorporate sports drinks or gels or bars at some point during your long workout sessions.  But if you’re new to endurance training and are used to drinking just water during your workouts, the transition can be confusing. 

How many extra calories do you need to take in and at what point during your run or ride should you start?  Here are the general rules:

  • During any workout up to one hour, plain water is fine. 

In fact, if you’re a just a regular gym rat (read: not training for anything) you should stick to just water.  Consider this: a woman weighing 150 pounds burns 98 calories per mile run.  The average sports drink contains 125 calories per bottle.  That means you’d have to run roughly 1.25 miles  before you actually start burning more calories than you’ve consumed. 

  • For those of us who are tackling training runs/rides in excess of an hour, it’s recommended to consume 100 calories or 30 grams of carbohydrate (drink or gel) for every hour beyond the 60 minute mark.

As for what to eat and/or drink, I prefer the fruity sports snacks like Gatorade, Powerade and Clif Shot Bloks.  Gu is also good if you’re looking for something really sweet. 

And here’s a tip if you’re planning on consuming the Bloks or Gu during a race…make sure you eat it near a water station.  You’re going to need the water to wash that stuff down because it has a tendency of sticking your jaw shut.

Fit-ting reading material

February 23, 2011

As you may have guessed from reading some of my posts, I’m not the biggest fan of women’s health magazines.  The conflicting information dispensed in their pages frustrates me to no end.  But I think I finally found a publication I can read without wanting to rip up the pages — it’s Fitness magazine.

I recently signed up for the More/Fitness Women’s Half Marathon on April 3.  As part of my registration fee, they threw in a subscription to Fitness magazine.  The first issue arrived in the mail yesterday.  Considering how much of a skeptic I am, I wasn’t expecting much.  But it’s surprisingly good! 

In its pages you won’t find a limited diet intended to help you lose 20 pounds before spring along side a recipe for a decadent chocolate cake.  Instead,  you get down-to-earth fitness advice (like which machines you can skip at the gym) and healthy recipes like chipotle vegetable chili.

Another thing I was very happy to see…only one photo of a woman in a bathing suit!  And even then, it was a bikini bottom paired with a sweater.  Weird, I know, but this was the winter issue.  (Hmmm…I guess that could explain the lack of scantily clad women, but that doesn’t seem to stop other women’s magazines of always featuring women prancing around in bikinis and lingerie.)

The only disconnect was the giant full page ad for Hydroxycut.  That product seems to go against everything the magazine stands for, but I can understand having to take ad dollars where you can get it.

Overall, I think the magazine definitely upholds its mission to “empower women to embrace fitness as a lifestyle — not an age or dress size–and to change the conversation from skinny to healthy”.   Glad to know I’m not the only one!

So if

11 million victims, no easy solution

February 22, 2011

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. 

The goal of the National Eating Disorders Association is simple…to eventually prevent all eating disorders from occurring.  But it won’t be an easy battle.

Consider these statistics from the NEDA website:

  • It’s estimated 11 million people suffer from anorexia and bulimia.  10 million of those people are women.
  • The mortality rate among anorexic girls between 15-24 years old is 12 times higher than any other illness.
  • 40% of new cases of anorexia is in girls between 15-19 years old.
  • Only a third anorexics and 6% of bulimics receive mental care

As for why girls turn to such drastic measures as starving themselves, abusing laxatives or bingeing and purging, consider this: 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.  It’s easy to blame the media and fashion industry for those numbers.  Afterall, models are 98% thinner than the average American woman.  But girls also get their cues from their mothers.  And if their moms are a frequent rider on the diet rollercoaster, odds are the daughters will grow up fearing and dreading weight gain. 

It’s time to break that cycle. 

Click here to learn more about NEDAwareness week and what you can do to help stamp out eating disorders.

Do menus with calorie counts work?

February 18, 2011

Back in 2008 when New York City ordered fast-food and other chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus, the eateries were livid.  They worried that when faced with just how many calories a Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappaccino (440 calories) or one of Pizzeria Unos’ individual Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza (2310!) actually contained, they’d stop coming in search of healthier options.  Turns out the restaurant industry had nothing to worry about.

A recent study by researchers at New York University looked at whether the change affected the eating habits of New York City and Newark, NJ kids from low-income families.   (New Jersey served as the control group because the state doesn’t yet require calorie information to be posted).  They discovered that although 60 percent of the kids who ordered their own food noticed the information, 90 percent of them said the labels didn’t affect what they ordered.  It was the same when it came to kids whose parents ordered for them.

So are calorie counts a waste?  Not necessarily, say the researchers.  What they concluded from this study is that in addition to providing the labels, people need to be educated about what makes up a healthy diet.  In essence, what good is knowing how many calories something contains if you don’t know how many calories you should be eating in the first place?  But the question then becomes is it the responsibility of the individual or the government to get this information?  I should point out this NYU study comes federal officials write rules requiring chain restaurants across the country to post calorie information on their menus and drive-through signs.

An app-solutely easy way to lose weight

February 16, 2011

A year or so ago I blogged about the mind-boggling number of diet and fitness apps available to smart phone users. 

At the time, I didn’t have a smart phone of my own and had to rely on the experiences and recommendations of others, but not anymore.

Since getting my new iPhone last week, I’ve spent a lot of time trolling through both the free and paid healthcare and fitness apps.  Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Name something you want to keep track of and there’s an app for it.  Whether we’re talking calories, exercise, heart rate, sleep, your period, your pregnancy or the number of push ups you can do…there are apps available to help you monitor all of it.  There tends to be multiple versions of each so all you have to do is pick the one that appeals to you, your goals, and your wallet the best.

My go-to diet app is the one available for free from the Daily Burn.   

The list of foods in its database is extensive.  If  you’re lazy or having trouble mastering the touchscreen keypad, you can pay to upgrade to an app that’ll let you scan the barcode of any food item to log it.  Neat, right? 

In addition to logging what you eat, you can also input personal information like your weight goal and it’ll suggest a caloric range for you to stick to.  You can also keep track of your exercise and even email questions to a certified personal trainer.

If you’re looking for something a bit more “hands-on” in terms of fitness, there’s definitely no lack of apps that offer to coach you or show you how to perform exercises.  You need to pay for most of those, with the average price around $1.50.

There are also apps that use GPS to track your runs/walks/steps.  I have yet to try one, but I hear most work great (until you get a phone call, but we’ll leave that for another post).

Overall, I think these healthcare/fitness apps are a great way to maintain your healthy lifestyle.  Let’s face it, we could all use a little help in sticking to our diet and/or exercise resolutions.  But when that help is so readily accessible, there’s really no excuse for failure.

The skinny bitch at fashion week

February 15, 2011

The skinny can that's making a splash at Fashion Week

Fashion Week is in full swing here in New York and the shows and new clothes aren’t the only things making headlines.  Pepsi took this week-long fashion extravaganza to unveil it’s new “skinny” Diet Pepsi can.  To say the thinking behind the design is flawed and offensive is to put it mildly.  The new can is taller and skinnier than it’s predecessor and will likely stand out amid all the short and squat soda cans out there.  No, what I take issue with is how the company has decided to market the new design.  Here are just a few words Pepsi uses to describe the new can: “sassier”, “stylish”, “confident”, “attractive” and “stylish”.

I get what they’re doing.  They’re trying to associate their product with all those fashionistas who flock to Fashion Week.  “Diet Pepsi: The latest must-have item!”  And yet it fails because in hyping a tall and skinny product as attractive and stylish, the company is implying  if you’re not tall and skinny (like those Fashion Week models) than you’re ugly with an out of date wardrobe. 

Sure it might be unfair to jump to the conclusion those skinny cans are a representation of what the company thinks confident and attractive women should look like, but consider this:  (1) They unveiled this product during Fashion Week and (2) most diet soda drinkers tend to be women. 

And I’m not the only one who’s insulted.  When this story broke last Thursday, the blogosphere blew up.  And then on Friday, the National Eating Disorders Association stepped into the fray calling Pepsi’s choice of branding words “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

I’ve never been a fan of Pepsi, but now I have even more of a reason to stick with my Diet Coke.

Eat this, not that, except when…

February 9, 2011

Lord knows there’s no shortage of dieting advice out there.   I mean we are talking about a $40 billion industry here.  All that information is bound to get confusing at times, which is why we turn to so-called health experts to sift through the clutter and tell us what to do, right?  But what happens when the people we rely on are bewildered themselves?

Let’s get back to those health magazines.  If you subscribe to any of them for a prolonged period of time you notice it’s just the same content recycled over and over again.  Not only that, a lot of what they’re telling you to do seems to contradict what they told you to do in a previous issue.  I draw your attention to exhibit A:

I was on a popular website when this headline caught my eye: “Diet Rules That Don’t Suck”.  Catchy,  no?  So naturally, I clicked through and found a list of “rules” that women should follow if they don’t want to miserable as they lose weight.  One suggestion is to eat less meat.  The thinking behind that one is that you’re cranky because you’re spending so much money on “healthy” foods, but not shedding pounds.  Ok, fine.  Not the strongest argument for going meat-less, but we can debate the pros/cons of cutting down on animal protein at a later time.

Now, two tips later, the article suggests another way to make your diet less sucky is to make sure you’re losing fat, not muscle.  The way to do this, we’re told, is to lift weights and eat a lot of protein.  Um, what?  Didn’t you just tell me to limit the amount of protein I should be eating?  Now you’re telling me I should be eating 2-3 ounces of lean meat every day?  What gives?

No wonder people are confused and can’t stick to a healthy eating program!  They’re told to do one thing and then told to do something else that completely contradicts the first.  And sadly, I’m not sure this is a problem that’s easily solved.  With all the money to be made, constantly bombarding  consumers with the latest “advice” which keeps them always looking for the next great weight loss “thing” is probably good for business.  I’m just not sure it’s so good for us.

But are the dieting industry and media really to blame?  You can’t deny the genius of those who tap into our insecurities about our weight to sell us a magic little pill or diet program that’ll melt away all our pounds easily.  But it’s not their fault that we’re so gullible and so overweight.  Let’s face it people, we didn’t get fat overnight and we sure as heck aren’t going to get thin that way.  We’re overweight cause we eat too  much and move to little.  I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s simple math…eat less, burn more.  Diets aren’t quick fixes.  They’re actually the first step you can take towards an overall lifestyle change.  But, boy, is that first step a doozy!