Category Archives: Weight Loss & Management Advice

How to Find a Gym While Traveling

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One of the more difficult parts of starting and maintaining an exercise regimen is getting a workout in when you’re traveling. Whether it’s a business trip, family vacation or road trip with your friends, you may need some help finding a place to get that workout in.

While most hotels have a gym, the equipment and quality is usually far less than ideal. To ensure you get a workout in while you’re on the road, here is how to find a gym while traveling:

For those looking for nearby gyms, yoga studios and fitness studios, technology is here to help. New apps are popping up to help health-seeking travelers find a gym on the road. Here are a few new gym location apps:

  • Gymsurfing – Locate a gym, and buy one or more day passes.
  • OmFinder – Search your area for a nearby yoga studio and view the class schedule.
  • GymPoints – Find gyms close to you that offer one-time visits and drop-in classes for commitment-free fitness.

Of course, if you don’t have time to dedicate to a gym visit, there are other ways you can fit exercise and activity into your travel. Try taking the stairs, walking briskly across the airport, exploring nearby parks or taking a 10-minute walking break at a rest stop.

Fitting fitness in on the road is just a matter of creativity and honoring your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, no matter where you are!

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The Power of Resistance Training For Weight Loss Success

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Are you spending hours on the elliptical or other cardio machine and not seeing the results you want? New research is showing that adding resistance training is a key factor in weight loss success.

By adding resistance training through body weight exercises like Pilates, yoga, barre or “boot camp” programs, you give your body the chance to build muscle and add another layer of fat-burning tissue while you’re at rest.

These workouts are becoming increasingly popular, and you can find many of these classes happening at gyms, boxing clubs and even outdoors in parks with the warm weather.

If you prefer the gym over exercise classes, using common gym equipment like rubber resistance bands, exercise balls, dumbbells, weighted medicine balls and TRX straps can provide an almost infinite number of resistance and body weight exercises. Working with your weight loss team and a personal trainer, you can learn how to use these tools and build a program appropriate for your unique needs.

When you add resistance training, you build muscle. This happens because when you train your muscles, it creates microfiber tears in the muscle tissue that rebuild over the next few days, resulting in stronger, more defined muscles. As the muscle repairs itself and grows, it pumps up your metabolism. Muscles burn more calories at rest than fat does, which is why resistance training for weight loss is more successful than cardiovascular activities alone.

As always, consult a doctor before starting an exercise program to make sure you’re healthy enough for the type of exercise you want to do. Getting active in addition to changing eating habits will put you on the path leading to weight loss success!

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Low Carb Easy Recipe #2: Faux Pancakes

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If you’re eating a low-carb diet as part of your weight loss program, breakfast time can start to get a little boring after awhile. Many foods enjoyed during the first meal of the day are awfully high in carbohydrates – oatmeal, muffins, toast, cereal, waffles, pancakes – and the list goes on and on!

I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make breakfast interesting, but there are only so many ways you can make eggs or an omelet, and even Greek yogurt and fruit gets a bit boring after awhile. One Saturday morning, I woke up and just had to have something different for breakfast, something that really would satisfy a craving – I made pancakes.

Well, not genuine pancakes. “Faux pancakes” would be a more accurate description. In fact, they might be a little closer to a crepe, but they are quick and easy to make. Having a stack of silver dollar-sized faux pancakes with sugar-free maple syrup is a little touch of heaven when you’re eating as low-carb as possible! Here’s the low-carb easy recipe for my breakfast creation:

Mike’s Silver Dollar (Faux) Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs. water
  • 1 tbs. soy flour
  • 1 tbs. almond flour
  • ½ tbs. artificial sweetener (I use Splenda, or you could use Stevia)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • Non-stick low-calorie cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Using two separate, small bowls, beat the two eggs and water together in one, and mix all the dry ingredients together in the other.
  2. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk for about 2 minutes or until most of the clumps disappear.
  3. Spray a non-stick pan or griddle, and heat it before cooking your pancakes. Use a large spoon to add the batter to the griddle to make the pancakes about 2” in diameter. Cook to your preference as you would any other standard pancake.

Yield: 1 serving (3-4 small pancakes)

Estimated Nutrition:

Calories: 233   Carbs: 5   Fat: 17   Protein: 17   Sodium: 380   Sugar: 1

You can easily double or quadruple the recipe to serve more diners as needed. The recipe is gluten-free, high in protein and low in carbs, which is perfect for my own high-protein, low-carb diet! Obviously, adding a little butter and sugar-free maple syrup will increase the calories a bit, but when you start off this low, the extras aren’t going to ruin this delicious low-carb breakfast treat!

How to Beat Summer Diet Pitfalls

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During the first year of my wellness plan, there were definitely some “hard times” during certain months on my calendar. I started dieting in January of 2013, so I did not have to immediately deal with the “food angst” many of us feel around the holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had more than nine months to get into a rhythm before I had to tackle the holidays.

Actually, the first real challenge I faced with my new wellness plan came as late spring heralded the coming summer months.

On the positive side, the change in weather and warm days are a great incentive to get me out of the house and be more active in general. Keeping busy helps me avoid snacking, and this time of year tends to see the prices drop for the healthy meats, vegetables and fruits I still use when preparing low-carb/high-protein meals as part of my summer diet.

But, there’s a negative aspect to the great weather and all-around fun of the summer months – the constant challenge of what to do while eating away from home. Summertime brings road trips, vacations and attending countless picnics and barbecues. There are so many temptations and opportunities to break your summer diet regimen!

We could make excuses to ourselves that sound like, “Well, it is just a picnic on the Fourth of July, so I can just have whatever they’re having,” or “I am on vacation, so it shouldn’t matter if I eat this.”

We’re tempted to not worry about our wellness plans here and there. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional self-indulgence during the warm summer days as a reward, like I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts. However, if your summer schedule is anything like mine, then there are many get-togethers, events and parties, and those little moments of self-indulgence can really start adding up. Be conscious of this so all your hard work doesn’t suffer a setback.

As we move into summer, I thought I’d offer some of the ways I managed to get through last summer maintaining a healthy high-protein/low-carb summer diet:

  • Bring Your Own Food (BYOF): Don’t let other people decide what you’re going to eat at a cookout or picnic. Instead, take the initiative to make sure there is healthy food there for you to eat by bringing it yourself. Make a nice salad or deviled eggs with low-carb/low-fat ingredients as your dish “to pass,” and you‘ll know there is one side you can eat. Also, bring your own choice of meat, like marinated chicken kabobs or a lean hamburger – chances are your host won’t begrudge you a little space on the grill, and you’ll have a decent meal without breaking your diet!
  • Pack a cooler with health: When traveling on a road trip, take the time to pack your cooler with healthy and easy-to-eat foods you can enjoy in the car. Bags of cheese cubes or a tin of peanuts are nutritious alternatives to chips and pretzels. A granny smith apple or a few strawberries are portable and provide a low-carb alternative for something sweet. Don’t forget to pack lettuce leaves, sliced lean meats and cheeses to make yourself a healthy wrap when your family stops at some fast food place for a quick bite.
  • Be decisive at meal time: When on vacation, it’s all too easy to let traveling companions decide where to eat out, but don’t hesitate to be assertive! Be the decisive one in the group and recommend a restaurant to visit, and choose one that will have healthy options on the menu. Chinese cuisine can allow you to select low-carb stir fries, while a good steakhouse guarantees you’ll have a choice of a lean protein and a salad. Almost every pancake house offers omelets and other egg dishes, which do not have to be accompanied by toast or flapjacks if you request it.

With little effort, eating away from your home in the summertime doesn’t have to mean losing ground on your wellness plan. Keep dropping those pounds all season long by making healthy meal choices, and let yourself enjoy a fun-filled, guilt-free summer!

Do you have other healthy summer diet tips to share?

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How a Psychologist Can Help You Lose Weight

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For many of us, obesity has had a major impact on our lives for years at a time, and in some cases, decades. Being obese has affected our health, our relationships, our careers and even our lifestyles. Because of this, it’s easy to let our attention focus on the physical aspects of our wellness and neglect the other significant component: the mental and emotional aspects of obesity.

I don’t need to tell anyone who has experienced serious long-term or short-term weight issues how damaging obesity can really be. Emotions like self-loathing, shame, depression and guilt are with us daily when we suffer with chronic obesity.

Perhaps you’re like me. In the past, you’ve tried to lose weight and were not successful at losing and keeping the weight off, despite trying several different diets. Now you can add feelings of embarrassment and personal failure to the pile of negative emotions you already feel.

With all that emotional negativity building up inside us, it’s likely that our resolve will be undermined with despair, which is extremely detrimental to our chances of success with medical weight loss. This is an area where a mental health professional like a psychologist can help you lose weight.

One of the promises I made to myself when I started seeing Dr. Sam was to also see someone who could help me with my depression. I was forced to admit to myself how long I’d been suffering with depression from being massively obese. I also experienced honesty in acknowledging that these feelings sometimes drove me to binge eat and feel like giving up on the goal of losing weight. In fact, I almost decided not to go meet with Dr. Sam for my first appointment because I couldn’t stand the idea of starting yet another diet, which I was convinced would be doomed to fail.

I guess I’ve already managed to prove myself wrong there, didn’t I?

Now that I had Dr. Sam and his staff behind me as my team to guide and support me in the physical aspects of losing weight, I needed another team member to help coach me in putting aside my depression and help me to truly believe that I could succeed – despite all my previous dieting failures.

As luck would have it, the psychologist I chose knew Dr. Sam and had worked with him before. Bringing her onto my wellness team was a perfect fit because she and Dr. Sam could now discuss my case from both a physical and emotional point of view. Their collaboration outlined the best ways to motivate and encourage me to keep pushing toward my goal.

In fact, I still see my psychologist periodically, despite my continued steady success over the past 16 months. At the time that I’m writing this blog, I’ve lost 245 pounds to date, and that kind of change in my life is beyond profound! When experiencing a major change like this, it’s wonderful to have someone coaching you through everything and giving you perspective; that’s what my psychologist does for me.

I would urge anyone considering medical weight loss with Dr. Sam to also think about having a psychologist as part of your support team. You will be surprised how much a mental health professional like a psychologist can help you lose weight and overcome your mental barriers. Dr. Sam will definitely be there to support your personal physical health, but you owe it to yourself to not neglect your emotional health, as well. It just might make all the difference in how awesome your weight loss success will be!

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The Power of Positive Thinking for Weight Loss

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Our outlook on life has a huge impact on how we approach everything we do. When we look at life with a brighter perspective, it transpires into looking at ourselves more positively.

An important piece of advice I always tell my patients is that if you do not believe in yourself and your ability to succeed in weight loss (or anything else in life), you will most likely never reach your goals.

I recently came across a study performed as part of the Women’s Health Initiative, demonstrating how upbeat and optimistic people tend to live a happier and healthier life. It also shows the the power of positive thinking for weight loss.

A better attitude often relates to a better relationship with food, but depressed and negative people tend to participate in more emotional eating of high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods. But, no one is immune to the blues all the time. When you’re feeling down, here are some tips from the article to avoid unhealthy eating behaviors:

  • Remove junk food from the house that you know you’ll reach for when you’re in a negative emotional state.
  • Find healthy ways to cope with unpleasant emotions, like meeting up with a friend, taking a walk or doing breathing exercises.
  • Practice self-regulation by monitoring your eating habits and your feelings when you want to eat, whether it’s writing in a journal or making mental notes.

In addition to eating healthier and including exercise on a regular basis, a positive outlook with healthy coping behaviors will lead you on the path to success in weight loss, and life!

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Weight Loss Advice: A “Should” Too Many

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One of the first things we hear when dieting is an enormous amount of weight loss advice in the form of shoulds from family, friends and even complete strangers.

You should use this new diet I read about…

You really should try eating this…

You know, you should start thinking about joining a gym…

With obesity such a pervasive health issue in this country, there are many people who have tried their hand at wellness programs with varying degrees of success – including those health conscious folks who have never suffered a day of true obesity in their lives!

And there are plenty of these individuals who are ready to dispense weight loss advice to you about your own program at almost every opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with getting advice, and some folks have great ideas to help lose weight that really work – but that’s not always the case.

A weight loss regimen really does need to be specific to you, and what works for a work friend or your favorite aunt might be the worst thing you can do for your personal wellness program. This is even more true when entering into a medical weight loss program. The recommendations you get from a weight loss physician, like Dr. Sam, simply have to take precedence over what advice you might get from your best friends.

When I first started on my current diet, I made it a full-blown lifestyle change – changing my eating habits, cooking methods and activity level. Dr. Sam had given me some specific guidelines regarding my diet and exercise options, which I tried to follow to the letter, but I still had plenty of weight loss advice from well-wishing family and friends trying to help me out. While I certainly appreciated all the support, many of the should suggestions weren’t going to work with what my doctor had instructed.

But some suggestions were useful, particularly when it came to foods and carb substitutions.  But in every instance, I did research online before I tried some new food option for my diet, and when it doubt, I asked Dr. Sam!

The bottom line is having a friendly support network is awesome when you’re working hard on a wellness plan. It’s tempting to try the weight loss advice of others, especially if they are successful dieters or naturally health inclined. But the reasons for our weight issues are so varied and so personal that we can’t be sure what is and is not going to work for us.

So when in doubt, you should do your research before you try anything new for wellness, and you should always consult your physician. Those two shoulds are the best shoulds to follow – after all, it’s your weight and your health that matter in the end!

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Low Carb Easy Recipe: Mole Chili Con Carne

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One of the most frustrating things we have to deal with during any diet is the feeling that you’re being deprived from eating good food. Depending on the type of diet you’re on, what we would typically consider really good tasting foods are now forbidden to us, while we watch family and friends happily enjoying them all around us.

When I started my current wellness plan, the limitations on sugar, carbohydrates and sodium prescribed by Dr. Sam felt like torment! So many foods were instantly removed from my list, and my list of potential ingredients seemed to dwindle every time I visited the grocery store.  What I really wanted was to make something that was great tasting and felt like it was off my diet, but it actually wasn’t.

I wanted a low carb easy recipe, so I started experimenting with what possible ingredients I could still use to make a really good pot of chili. Personally, I can eat chili year round, and it’s one of those meals that will have plenty of leftovers – a great thing if you’re trying to stretch your grocery dollars!

My final recipe draws elements of mole style cooking, combined with Texas style no-bean chili. Going bean-less really lowers the carbs!

Mike’s Mole Chili Con Carne

  • 2.5 pounds of lean ground sirloin (optionally, you can use a 50/50 combination of ground round and lean ground turkey)
  • 1 large green pepper – diced
  • 1 large yellow onion – diced
  • 4-6 oz. of fresh chili peppers – diced (I usually use a combination of 3 serranos, 2 jalapeños and one habenero – I like spicy!) Note: When dicing the chili peppers, latex gloves are recommended to avoid burnt fingertips.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large can of low sodium crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • 1 large can of low sodium stewed diced tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • 2 cups of water

Spices:

  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme (dried)
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano (dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar substitute

Preparation:

  • Brown the ground beef in a stew pot in the olive oil, breaking the meat up into fine pieces.
  • Add the diced onion and green pepper, cooking it in the meat until the onion starts to turn a little translucent.
  • Add the chili peppers and all the spices, mixing them into the meat/veggie mixture until everything is well coated with spices.
  • Stir in the canned tomatoes and crushed tomato, and then add the water, stirring everything together well and continuously until the pot comes to a light simmer.
  • Reduce heat to medium/low, and let it cook uncovered. Simmer the chili for 4-6 hours, stirring once every 30 minutes while the chili reduces.
  • Serve with shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Yields approximately eight 10-12 oz. servings.

Estimated Nutritional Statistics

Calories: 411 | Carbs: 29 | Fat: 18 | Protein: 34 | Sodium: 610 | Sugar: 14

I’ll be sharing more from my low carb easy recipe files in the near future!

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How to Manage Your Weight Loss With the Power of Negative Thinking

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We hear it all the time from friends, family and co-workers telling us there is power in “positive thinking.” And when you’re dieting and trying to reach your weight loss goal, thinking positive is great advice. It helps keep us upbeat when our goal seems far away and helps us to envision how good we’re going to feel when we reach a healthy weight.

Positive thinking leads to a positive attitude, and when making a major life change, we need to have a good mental outlook.

But you don’t hear much about how to manage your weight loss with “negative thinking.” This mindset can be a powerful tool in our weight loss arsenal to help keep us motivated and strong willed.

After I was diagnosed with non-diabetic insulin resistance as one of the main causes behind my trouble losing weight, I asked Dr. Sam what sort of diet I should be on. He gave me some fairly general guidelines, allowing me the latitude to make my own menus and food plans. But one guideline he gave me was the hardest to wrap my head around: No starches and no carb-heavy foods.

That meant I would have to give up bread, rice, potatoes, chips, pretzels, candy, sugary pop and a whole list of other foods that, let’s face it, are really great to eat and snack on. And the carbs I did allow myself to have had to come only from vegetables and low sugar fruits. But when you’re diagnosed with insulin resistance, high carb foods are completely counter to the medication you’re taking and will push back against all your diet and exercise plans.

The first few days after I gave up carbs were terrible! I felt deprived and angry. It felt unfair, especially watching other people around me enjoying “normal” foods without a care in the world.

But then I had a realization about how I needed to change my attitude about carbs, an attitude which would put some perspective on my new reality: an obese man with a dangerous disease that could kill me if left uncontrolled.

I needed to have a negative attitude about high carb foods and see them for what they truly were to me – TOXIC. I resolved to think about high-carb foods in exactly those terms.

From that point on, every time I saw a basket of bread, cake, pie or loaded baked potato, I thought to myself, “That’s toxic… if you eat that stuff, it’s as deadly to you as eating rat poison. Don’t do it!”

It may sound harsh to think like that, but it was also a very empowering. It allowed me to quickly push away temptations to snack on chips, or eat candy, or even think about making a sandwich with bread. It made those foods feel dangerous and risky to eat, which they are when you’re trying to control your blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Every meal I ate with no high carbs made it easier to eat my next meal without heavy starchy foods. Every day that went by that I succeeded in keeping my total carbs low, it became easier and easier, until I didn’t even think of carb-rich foods as anything I would want to eat regularly.

It’s not easy to live a low carb life in a world filled with high carb foods, but with the right negative attitude, you can put those carb-heavy foods in their place and give yourself the power to control what you eat and how you manage the food choices you make.

Have feedback or questions for me on how to manage your weight loss with negative thinking? Share in the comments.

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How a Food Journal Helps Supercharge Your Dieting Power

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It’s true – studies have shown that writing down everything you eat or drink helps you lose weight faster and more effectively. Now before you click to close this post in annoyance, please realize that I’ve lost 217 pounds in just 13 months, and I’ve kept a food journal every single day.

Did that get your attention?

You can believe me when I say I was not thrilled about starting a food journal with this latest endeavor to reach a healthy weight last year. The idea of having to write down everything I ate, day-in and day-out, sounded like a completely annoying way to make my dieting experience that much more unpleasant. But I told myself to try it for two weeks, and now a meal or snack can’t go by without noting it in my journal!

A WebMD article discusses one study done in which around 1,700 obese adults were asked to keep a food journal while they tried to maintain a healthy eating habit. The article reported that the dieters who kept a food journal at least six days out of the week lost twice as much weight as those who only kept their journal one day a week, or no journal at all.

And a registered dietician and wellness manager at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute by the name of Kirstin Kilpatrick wrote an article explaining why food journaling is so effective for helping with weight loss.  She explains it makes you aware of how much you actually eat, think about what you eat before you eat, portion out your food better and gain a better understanding of how food ties into your daily activities and mood.

Tracking my food for more than a year now, I can assure you the food journal does everything Ms. Kilpatrick says it does, and more! It really empowers you while you’re dieting by giving you a solid knowledge of exactly how many calories, carbs, fat, protein and sugars you’re eating meal by meal and for the whole day.

Armed with knowledge like this, you can mentally pre-plan your meals and snacks so you can cheerfully say “no” to those food temptations we all encounter in a day, knowing that you won’t have to write it down. And being able to look back over a day or a week and seeing how much healthier you’re eating is really a very powerful incentive to keep up the good work!

Keeping a food journal doesn’t have to be a chore either, especially now when there are several websites devoted to making your own personal journal. Personally, I use MyFitnessPal.com to log my meals and exercise, mainly because it’s free, has a huge database of food nutrition stats available and has the convenience of an app for smartphones and tablets.

There are other sites, like My-Calorie-Counter.com, FitDay.com, and MyFoodDiary.com to use, depending on your preferences. And if you’re away from a computer and have no portable device, just keep a little note pad in your pocket to write down what you had for a meal or snack so you can enter it later.

Another tip – keeping track of food right after you eat is better than trying to remember what you ate earlier that day.

I encourage you to give food journaling a try, and see if you don’t get hooked on the power and knowledge that you’ll get when you track what you eat, how much you eat and how much more effective you are on your diet.