Health & Food

FAQs From 10-Week Weight Loss Class (Part 1)

For the past ten weeks I’ve been leading a weight loss and management class made up of about 50 amazing people. Most of the people in the class are women, but there are three men.  If you’ve ever taught a large group class you know that it’s easy to get attached to the group (and I’m sure if you are a teacher you completely understand this!).  Needless to say, I’m sad the class is over. Today and next Friday I want to share with you some of the most common questions I received from the men and women in the class, plus my answers.  I’ve tried to make the answers short and sweet, but please e-mail me or click on the links I provide for further details.

Weight Loss Class 1

Source: iStock Photo

That’s all the calories I get?  During the first week of the class I weighed each person and gave them an estimate for how many calories they should be consuming, in order to lose or maintain weight (some were taking the class to maintain weight).  Many of the calorie estimates were very low; 1100-1300 calories.  The bottom line is that if someone is currently consuming closer to 2000 calories, and they truly only need 1100-1300 calories, it’s definitely a shock, but let’s face it, the reason they are overweight in the first place is because they have been consuming excess calories for so long.  The bottom line: The calorie estimate is not something I expect anyone to reach overnight.  It will take time to adjust to a new calorie goal.  It might even take a few months to start really getting good at listening to your body and only eating when you are physically hungry, and stopping when you are full, but not uncomfortable. Once you get that down you will realize that your new calorie goal is not only achievable, but you feel better when sticking to it.

I only get 4 ounces of grain and only 5 ounces of protein, per day?  I like to show people, based on their calorie goal, how many cups of fruits, vegetables, and dairy/dairy alternative they should be getting each day, as well as how many ounces of protein and grain.  Based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines most people only need about 4-5 ounces of grains and protein a day (this is always a shock for people).  Yes, at first these recommendations seem small, and and they are!  But let’s not forget two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. In other words, the majority of us are eating way too much grain, protein, and even fruit and dairy.  So, while the number might sound small, once again it’s a goal for which to strive, not a change to be made overnight.  If you are currently consuming a lot more than the recommendations, simply give yourself a goal to reduce your amounts each week, and eventually you will get to where you need to be (this often means replacing things like grains with more vegetables).

Weight Loss 4

Source: iStock Photo

You’ve heard it before, “The size of a deck of hards is about 3-4 ounces, so that’s a good serving size to stick to when eating protein”.  Well, that’s true, but if you eat more in a sitting it’s certainly ok.  I’d much rather someone eat more protein than the recommendation, than grains (for weight loss and maintenance purposes).

What should I look for on nutrition labels?  This is a tough one to answer, because it depends on your health conditions.  Someone with diabetes might need to look at different things than someone with Celiac disease or someone who is trying to gain weight, or lose weight.  Someone with high cholesterol might need to look for something different than someone with high blood pressure.  But the bottom line is this; If you look at one thing and one thing only, first look at the ingredient list and make sure there are zero hydrogenated oils (trans fats), next, look at the total calories and make sure whatever you are eating can fit into your daily meal plan.  And next?  Well, if you’re watching your weight, look at sugar.  My very general recommendation for sugar is about 70-100 grams per day, for the average person (total, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, sugar in grains, and sugar in any extras like desserts).

ingredient list

Source: iStock Photo

Remember, just because something says “0 g trans fat” doesn’t always mean it truly has  0 g trans fat!  Read the ingredient list and make sure there are no partially hydrogenated oils, of any kind.

And of course it’s also important to look at sodium, and sources of fat…..heck, it’s confusing right? This is why I generally say each as fresh as possible, and avoid labels as much as you can!

Is it really best to eat 6 small meals throughout the day?
Sure, if you can, but it’s not necessarily the best thing, nor is it necessary.  Let’s face it, not everyone’s schedule allows them to eat six small meals throughout the day.  Most of us work 8-10 hours a day with very few breaks, how would this even be possible?!  I typically say just be sure to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and not to let too much time go by before eating again (ie: don’t let yourself get to the point of feeling so hungry you will eat whatever you possibly lay your eyes on first!).  After all, if you aren’t hungry, you shouldn’t eat, so why would you eat every 2-3 hours if your body didn’t require the calories at that time?!  Keep in mind this advice might be different for someone who has diabetes.
What are some healthy snacks?
Oh boy, there are lots!  I like to recommend 150-200 calorie snacks, and no matter what, including some protein in your snack.  Here are some options;

  • Whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese
  • Small apple and a handful of almonds
  • Cottage cheese and tomatoes
  • Broccoli and a greek yogurt dip
  • String cheese and peanut butter (what? is that weird?  haha)
  • Popcorn and nutritional yeast (one of my favorite combinations)
  • Check out my blog post on healthier snack options
  • Check out my Pinterest board with tons of ideas for healthy and unique snacks
  • Eating Well has some great ideas too
  • See my links on the side of this blog (Snacks!)popcorn

Source: iStock Photo

You always talk about Greek Yogurt, Gina, what if I don’t like it?  Seriously, I do talk about greek yogurt a lot, because let’s face it, it’s a great source of protein, calcium, and it’s low in sugar.  I have a tough time working with people who don’t like Greek yogurt, but…..there are many of you out there (and you know who you are!).  Here are my tips;

  • Try different types, because some are thicker/thinner than others and have different textures
  • Just eat regular yogurt, and look for a higher protein variety (10 grams per serving or more)
  • Add fun mix-ins to make your Greek yogurt delicious!  If you don’t like the thickness of it, add some milk to it or almond milk
  • Use Greek yogurt as a component of something else, such as a smoothie or a dip, so you aren’t just eating it plain.
  • Get your protein from another convenient source like cottage cheese or whey protein powder (add this to smoothies, oatmeal, or shakes, or make pancakes with them or power bars/granola bars)Weight Loss 5

Source: iStock Photo

Sorry about the (all of a sudden) small font.  Sometimes I HATE GOOGLE!!!…..

What’s the best kind of bread?  This is a tough question to answer.  Most breads count as about 1 ounce of grain, and considering most people don’t need more than 4-5 ounces a day, that’s crazy.  I like to recommend the 35-calorie “light” breads for those who love bread and must have it at every meal and/or snack (ahem, my husband) or if you are like me and can control yourself around bread, a hearty whole grain bread (100% whole grain) is probably the best choice. Bottom line: it depends on what esle you are eating throughout the day (are you already getting too many grains in your diet from pasta, rice, etc? If so, you may need a lighter bread), and whether or not you are getting whole grains from other sources (are you eating mainly enriched grains? If so, you may need a 100% whole grain bread to make sure you are getting some whole grains in your diet).  This is where a supermarket dietitian can really come in handy!Weight Loss 6

Source: iStock Photo

Is pasta bad?  Nope. Not at all. Just like potatoes, pasta is actually good, but Americans tend to turn it into a “bad food” because a) we top it with lots of stuff that isn’t so healthy and b) we can’t stick to the appropriate portions.  Keep in mind what I said above; most Americans only need about 4-5 ounces (some need more, some need even less!) of grains a day.  One-half cup of cooked pasta is one ounce of grain.  So, do the math…..a large bowl of pasta (ie: a typical restaurant serving) could easily put you over your limit.Weight Loss 7

How do I account for added sugar?  Why is it bad? How much do I need?  You can’t really accurately determine your added sugar intake, because labels aren’t required to differentiate added sugar vs. natural sugar. Just know that if a product has 20 grams of sugar, and contains zero real fruit or dairy, it’s all added.  Read my post to find out how much added sugar you should limit yourself to each day (and see how much I get!).

Added sugar is something you need to limit in your diet because it’s…well…void of any nutrients and provides nothing positive to you or your body (other than, of course, a great taste).  Even too much “natural sugar” from fruit and dairy can deter you from reaching your goals because sugar spikes insulin, and insulin is a hunger and fat storage hormone (one of them).  That’s a very brief and to-the-point description of why I tell people to try to limit their sugar.  Bottom Line: Fruit and dairy have sugar, but at least they also have vitamins, minerals, and for fruit, fiber.  Added sugar is something that may not necessarily have to be in the food you are eating.  We need to train our taste buds to enjoy foods with less sugar (and salt for that matter).Weight Loss 8

Source: iStock Photo

Why is it so hard to meet the sugar requirements on My Fitness Pal?  I’ve yet to figure out just how the creators of My Fitness Pal come up with their recommendations fro sugar.  I believe my sugar requirements, based on their recommendations, was about 30 grams a day.  Now, if they were talking “added sugars” (sugars added by me to my foods, or sugars added to products by companies who make them) that would be one thing, but they clearly are not.  Consider sugar is found in; vegetables, fruits and milk, naturally, and that you need to get ~2 cups of vegetables, ~1 cup of fruit and ~2-3 cups of dairy (or alternatives) each day…that’s ~50 grams of sugar right there, from foods that you should have in your diet each day.  What’s the deal?!  I always go in an change my client’s sugar recs.  I still keep it low (~70-90 grams) but realistic none the less.

Weight Loss 9

Source: iStock Photo

STAY TUNED: Next Friday I will post more FAQs from my weight loss class.

To those of you who celebrate, Happy Easter!  And to everyone, have a wonderful weekend.

About author


Hi, my name is Rebecca Houston and I am a writer. I write about health, healthy food and daily meal plan for various websites.
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