Foundations

Food Logs: A Foundation To Honesty

Tired of the Food Log?

Over the last 30 years every time I ever started a weight loss program I was told how important a food log was. I never believed it. Of course, I’m old enough that keeping a food log meant using a notebook and pen back in the day. But today’s we don’t have the same concerns:  there are numerous online programs and apps that can make food logging simple, fast and easy!

I always started food journaling with the best of intentions and I would usually end up with about 3 days of solid records and then for the next 3 days it would be one meal here and another meal there. A week later I would have lost the whole log book and forgotten all about it.

Food Logs: Required for TV

Then came Biggest Loser. By my best recollection, we were asked to show up with a few weeks of food logs. We were told that if we didn’t arrive with them we would be asked to leave. For the first time I really labored to keep a food log and I succeeded. I remember that one of the drinks I would purchase at Starbucks was what I now would call a Frapa-heart-attack!  I had no idea this one beverage was so calorie laden - after adding all my special things to it the result was one drink that was over 1000 calories! I discovered I was drinking half my calories each day, and that I was eating so much more than I realized.

How important is a food log to Biggest Loser? Keeping a computerized food log was part of the contract I signed to be on the show. Basically, it was a major part of my journey on the program and still is a daily activity for me. The only days I might miss are days when I’m traveling, but even then I try to log.

Five Reasons a Food Log Is Important to Weight Loss

1. Food logs allow you to track what you eat.

I was that very large person that used to tell people that I really didn’t eat that much. I was lying to myself and didn’t really know it until that log was staring me in the face. I very quickly realized that about 85% of my diet was starches and meat. I would tell people that I loved salad which meant that I ate a salad once a week.

Having a record of what you have eaten will help you see how you eat and if you overeat.

2. Food logs establish what we need to add to our meal plan.

In our modern culture we are eating more and more calories with less and less nutrition. Essentially, we are eating but our body is starving for the nutrients it needs to be healthy.

As we evaluate our log, we can identify the foods we need to add to our plan to balance out our nutrition. The opposite of this is also true—we can also identify the foods we need to eliminate from our plan.

3. Food logs help us establish portion control.

Many of us eat fairly healthy but we eat more than we need. Logging our food makes us aware of how much we are eating. For me, just writing down what I was eating helped me eat less. For us to be able to log our food proportionally, it is essential that we measure what we eat.

4. Food logs aid in identifying emotional eating triggers.

Eating to cope with stress rather than to fuel our body is emotional eating. We eat to make ourselves feel better. Many overweight people are that way because they use food to cope with emotions and stress. A food log can help identify what exactly triggered the desire to eat.

Did the desire to eat come on suddenly? What precipitated the sudden desire to eat? Are there certain times of day that we are tempted to eat something without really feeling physical hunger? What is the trigger? Is there someone that causes us stress that we find ourselves reaching for chips after hanging up the phone with him or her? For the emotional eater, triggers can take many forms. When we identify them, just the awareness can be a deterrent.

5. Food logs encourage us to stay on track.

Just the nature of logging our food helps to keep us on track. Studies have demonstrated this: people who log their food lose 50% more than those who don’t.

Even when we succumb to a food temptation, if we continue to log that day we can get right back on track rather than allowing ourselves to indulge the entire day or for the rest of the week. Many times I find that just writing down what I’m eating helps me stay on track.

Sleep: A Foundation Commonly Forgotten

Good Sleep Is Essential to Weight Loss and Maintenance

According to Dr. Frank Lawlis in The Sleep Solution Workbook, about 63% of Americans are sleep deprived. Historically, prior to Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb the average American slept 10 hours a night. Presently, the average American sleeps 6.9 hours on weeknights and slightly more on weekends. We are a sleep-deprived nation.

There are many reasons that sleep deprivation is detrimental to our health, but one key issue is that sleep deprivation promotes obesity.

Lack of Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain

It is safe to say from research that a lack of sleep can cause weight gain. Biggest Loser acknowledges this correlation, and sleep is addressed in all contestants from day one. Every contestant experiences a sleep study to determine sleep issues. Most, in fact, have sleep apnea, a chronic condition that disrupts sleep and, in extreme cases, can be fatal.  

For me, the time of day that used to be the most difficult was early afternoon. I would experience fatigue and reach for either coffee or food. What kind of food would I reach for? Chips, a doughnut, or even some French fries were just some of the items I would grab. It was a vicious cycle; the more tired I was, the more I grabbed something that would bring me some quick energy. Sleep deprivation slowly but surely deteriorates your health, and weight gain is the result of our bodies attempting to find extra energy.

Sleep Deprivation Drives us to Unhealthy Options

Dr. Susan Zarfarlotfi is quoted in an article, Coping with Excessive Sleepiness, “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods.” She is the clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

This behavior does help us gain some momentary energy, but eventually we gain weight. Continuing on this path of weight gain and sleep deprivation, our health suffers.

Our General Sleep Needs

The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you are a five-hour a night sleeper and you add those extra two hours, you will drop weight. How sleep deprivation affects our weight loss efforts has to do with hormones.

Sleep, Hormones and Consequences Explained

In the same article, Coping with Excessive Sleepiness, two hormones are discussed that are key in this process: ghrelin and leptin. These two hormones impact energy balance. When we are sleep-deprived we have a higher level of ghrelin, which is also the hormone that promotes eating. When we are sleep-deprived ghrelin pushes us to eat so we can have energy to keep going. Leptin is the hormone that regulates long-term energy balance, which lowers food intake. Once we understand how these hormones work, it makes sense that a greater level of ghrelin equals weight gain while greater levels of leptin promotes weight maintenance. It is all about balance.  Adequate sleep raises our leptin levels, helps us maintain healthy diet and weight maintenance.

The bottom line?  One way to help your health journey is to begin to get enough sleep, and to assure it is quality sleep.  If you or a loved one has interrupted snoring during the night or is always exhausted, you might want to talk to your doctor about checking the quality of your sleep.  Adequate quality sleep is essential for your weight journey.

Water: 3 Reasons it's Essential

 

In an article entitled The Importance of Water Jen Heath wrote, “In the diet, water is the most important component in losing fat and keeping it off. You heard that right…the most important.” This professional body builder knows exactly what she is talking about. Her article is one of the basis for our entire section on water when we hold a conference.

Water is essential to health. As contestants on Biggest Loser, we were not only actively encouraged to track our calories but also our carbohydrates, protein, fat and water consumption. Most of us would be hard pressed to know how much water we drink on a day-to-day basis. A good nutrition plan without adequate water intake makes weight loss more difficult.

3 Reasons Water is Essential to Health & Weight Loss.

1. Water is the single most important component in weight loss.

Water is a natural appetite suppressant and helps our body burn fat. When our bodies do not have an adequate supply of water for bodily functions, water is drawn from cells, including fat cells. Fat cells that have been "squeezed" are less likely to be burned as energy. Most people who are obese live in a dehydrated state, and the water they consume goes first to hydrate these "squeezed" cells.  It takes a well-hydrated body to begin to allow those cells to be burned as fuel.

Adequate hydration allows your body to run proficiently and means you will experience greater weight loss than you would if dehydrated.

2. Water aids the immune system and thus prevents illness.

 When dehydrated our bodies are more susceptible to germs. Our mucus membranes are the natural gatekeepers to our natural defense system according to Lippincott's Textbook for Nursing Assistants. You might not realize that we have mucus that line all of our organs that come in contact with the outside (respiratory, digestion, urinary and reproductive systems). Mucus basically works by trapping and destroying germs.  When those mucus membranes are dried out, our body's defenses are weakened.

3. Water helps to lower blood pressure.

The American Red Cross conducted a study of water drinking and its relation to blood pressure. When blood donors were given 16 oz. of water to drink before donating blood, a 20 percent drop in fainting occurred. Fainting after donating blood is often connected to a drop in blood pressure. The opposite is also true. Not consuming enough water can cause a rise in blood pressure because our body constricts the blood vessels when dehydrated. Due to dehydration the heart is pushed to pump harder thus causing the blood pressure to rise.

3 Ideas to increase your Water Intake

1. Drink an 8 oz. glass of water first thing in the morning before coffee or tea.   

After sleeping all night you are dehydrated and your body needs water. Drinking the water first quenches your thirst, thus allowing you to enjoy your morning coffee or tea.

2. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and drink a little all day long.

Many of us try to gulp our water intake down all at once, and we hate it. Instead, drink a little all day.  Invest in a reusable bottle you can slip into your bag, backpack, or car drink holder, and keep it filled as you go from place to place.

3. Add a slice of lime, lemon, BERRIES or cucumber to your water.

Many of us want other beverages because we want the taste. Add healthy options to your water rather than artificial sweeteners. Water will help your body work well!


Jen Heath.  The Importance Of Water: A Full Explanation! Retrieved from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jenheath4.htm

Pamela Carter & Susan Lewsen. Lippincott's Textbook for Nursing Assistants: A Humanistic Approach to Caregiving. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005.

Leigh McMillan. Plain water has surprising impact on blood pressure. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2016, retrieved from http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu:8080/reporter/index.html?ID=9047