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Feb 20

Diet: it's all in the mind

Mind matters ... find out what you're really hungry for.

It's possible to eat whatever you want and still lose weight. In fact, it's possible to do away with confusing and contradictory diets and fads. It just involves a little mind over platter, says nutritionist and author Kathleen Alleaume in her new book, What's Eating You: Find Your Balance with Food and Lose Weight.

"Diets don't work and they will only cause you to yo-yo and gain more fat. Blacklisting carbs or going on heavily restrictive calorie-controlled diets are lousy ideas," she says.

"We all know what we 'should' be eating. Five serves of veg and two serves of fruit, mixed with moderate portions of lean meat, dairy, eggs, wholegrains and nuts, yet we are not doing it.

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"The simple message of 'get back to basics' has been lost. Unfortunately we make certain things in life e.g. eating more complicated than it needs to be."

Alleaume is one of a growing number of health experts who say weight problems are not so much about what we are eating as why we are eating. "We [need to] learn to listen to the inner whispers of our body and learn to be very honest about what we are actually hungry for. For example, learn to eat primarily for physical hunger rather than emotional reasons. When we learn to rely on internal hunger – we get better at registering the fullness cues."

Alleaume sees a wide range of people with issues that vary from weight management to improving sleep, lowering cholesterol to nutrition for running a marathon. Yet, regardless of the issue or her clients' level of nutritional knowledge, she sees a common theme: they eat for other reasons apart from hunger. When they're stressed, bored, tired or upset, they turn to food.

It is for this reason that she decided to write her book. "I see so many people with this underlying cause of overeating and/or unhealthy eating 'behaviours' aka bad eating habits. With so much emphasis on 'what' we should be eating, I wanted to also put emphasis on 'why we eat what we eat' - which for many, is the missing link to long-term weight managements and improvements in eating habits."

The first step is to distinguish between 'hunger' and 'appetite.' "Hunger is the physical need for food. Appetite is the desire to eat food," Alleaume says. "The desire to eat is most often influenced by our emotions, habits, lifestyle, culture, memories, as well as the sight, smell and taste of food. So, if one can learn to eat when they are actually hungry, and not just because their appetite tells them to (because food is in front of them), [it] will make a huge difference to the total amount of food eaten."

Doing this involves getting back in touch with what you're really hungry for, she says. "Chances are it may not be food. It may be affection, or self-esteem or, perhaps, deep inside you don't really like your job or the career path you have chosen."

Once you are clear on what's eating you, the next step is bringing awareness to your thought patterns. "The average human has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and many of them - around 95 per cent - are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before," Alleaume says. "Yet most people are aware of less than 5 per cent of their thoughts and the impact these thoughts have on their actions.....They will shape your attitude, how you feel, what you do."

The idea is not to berate yourself for thinking in a negative way, but simply notice certain thoughts and beliefs occurring. "The more you are aware of your thoughts, assumptions and beliefs, as well as the extent to which you are influenced by them, the more you can take responsibility and shift your internal paradigm."

Which means being mindful of the food choices you make and how your body responds to what you are putting in it. "They say old habits never die," Alleaume says. "However, I believe they just remain dormant. But, we can learn new habits and replace the bad ones."

Alleaume's top tips:

1. Learn to recognise true hunger. If you have just eaten within the last two hours, chances are you are not physically hungry.

2. Tweak your treats. Avoid stocking the cupboard or refrigerator with comfort foods laced with fat, sugar or salt. Gradually replace them with healthier versions. For example swap the banana bread for fruit toast.

3. Manage stress. We look for comfort when we are stressed. The goal is to lower stress with healthful strategies, including regular exercise and adequate sleep, rather than seeking comfort in food.

4. Figure out your triggers: Keep a food diary of what you eat, when you eat, and why you eat it. Knowing your motivations for why you eat will make you conscious of your triggers, and you can begin to change your patterns.

5. Practice mindful eating. Many times people eat without even realising what they are consuming. We become easily distracted, whether it's from work, the kids, or watching television. When it's time to eat, make the effort to sit and savour every mouthful. This technique can help increase awareness of the sensations, feelings and thoughts connected with food and eating.

What's Eating You: Find Your Balance with Food and Lose Weight, $32.95. Random House Books.

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Diet: it's all in the mind

Feb 18

Use multiple measurements to track weight loss

It can be difficult to maintain a new fitness routine or diet, but UC’s Dan Carl, PhD, says tracking specific data can help people get a basic idea of their body composition—and may provide encouragement to stay with a routine over time.

Carl, an assistant professor of clinical rehabilitative sciences at UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences, recommends keeping track of several body measurements to get a complete picture of your weight loss.

"The standard fitness measurements should include height, weight, body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI),” he says. 

Focusing on just one measurement like weight or BMI can be misleading, says Carl, "but monitoring all the measurements gives a true indication of where you’re at.”

Body fat percentage can be measured with some high-tech scales, skin fold calipers or a simple tape measure, while BMI calculators are available online.

Though BMI can’t tell how much of a person’s weight is fat and how much is muscle, it can serve as a fairly reliable indicator for most people over time. According to the CDC, a BMI between 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, while a BMI 25-29.9 is considered overweight. The BMI ranges for adults are the same for both men and women. 

Body fat percentage is especially clarifying, says Carl, as it goes beyond the surface. While a large, athletic man could be listed as overweight or obese by BMI charts, he may have a low body fat percentage. Similarly, a woman who looks thin but never exercises may store her extra weight as fat. 

Average body fat percentage for men is between 13-17 percent and between 20-27 percent for women. High is classified as 17-25 percent for men and 27-31 percent for women.

While exact measurements can be taken by doctors, personal trainers or at sports performance labs, careful work with a tape measure at home can be just as helpful when documented regularly.

"My best advice for the person beginning a fitness routine would be to write it down,” says Carl. "Keep a log of your diet and fitness numbers—you’ll start to see patterns and it can help you attach yourself to the routine. That will help with keeping to your new diet and goals in those first few weeks.”

Carl also recommends some perspective—saying those starting or trying to maintain a new fitness regimen should commit themselves to "the long haul.”

"People can put on 20 pounds in 20 years, but who looks at losing that weight over 20 years? If you think about making minor changes to your lifestyle and think long-term about taking off the weight, you’re more likely to be successful,” he says. "Don’t be fooled by what you see in two to three weeks—take a year or two to lose significant weight.”

Provided by University of Cincinnati (news : web)

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Use multiple measurements to track weight loss

Feb 18

Want to Lose Weight? Try Teamwork

Weight Loss Influenced by Team Support, Researchers Say

Feb. 17, 2012 -- Weight loss may be influenced by joining a team.

A new study shows that people who shed at least 5% of their initial body weight during a weight loss competition were likely to be on the same teams. Those who said their teammates played a large role in their weight loss were more likely to lose a significant amount of weight.

The findings appear in Obesity.

Shows like The Biggest Loser often have team-, family-, or couples-based competitions that harness the power of peer influence when it comes to weight loss.

“People around us affect our health behaviors,” says researcher Tricia Leahey, PhD. She is with The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I.

This is true for healthy and unhealthy behaviors. “It could be quite beneficial if a bunch of friends that choose to lose weight make healthy food choices together, and hold each other accountable to those choices,” she says.

Team members can motivate one another to stay the course. “If someone is doing really well, it could influence the whole group,” Leahey says.

The findings are based on the results of the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island campaign, a 12-week statewide, online weight loss competition. Participants competed against other teams for weight loss, physical activity, and the number of steps taken. The weight loss arm included 3,330 overweight or obese people on 987 teams. The teams had between five and 11 members.

Two of the study’s co-authors, Rajiv Kumar, MD and Brad M. Weinberg, MD, are co-founders of ShapeUp, Inc.

There Is No ‘I’ in Team

People who lost at least 5% of their body weight, which is an amount that is thought to be significant in improving health, tended to be on the same teams. Those who reported a higher level of social influence by their teammates increased their odds of significant weight loss by 20%. 

“This is really quite powerful,” Leahey tells WebMD. "We were surprised by the magnitude of the effect."

Team captains lost more weight than team members. This may be because they were more motivated and engaged in the contest.

Kevin Sloan is the acting psychology director at Beaumont Weight Control Center in Royal Oak, Mich. The findings mirror what he sees in his practice. “We find that when couples begin their weight loss journey together, they tend to do better. There is a lot of credence to the buddy concept,” he says.

Not everyone is a team player. “It is important to do a self-assessment before signing up, but this a good approach for some people who are joiners and do much better as part of a group,” he says.

Weight Loss Is Contagious

“People do better in a group because of the peer pressure,” says Louis Aronne, MD, founder and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

And “virtual” weight loss works, too. Groups can get together via the web. “Social support helps people to do better, and there are a variety of ways to accomplish it,” Aronne says.

Still, group dynamics can backfire. "When someone is not doing very well, sometimes that person gets pulled along and sometimes they don’t,” he says.

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Want to Lose Weight? Try Teamwork

Feb 17

Why is it so hard for kids to lose weight?

Childhood obesity isn't just a cosmetic issue, although studies show overweight children are often isolated and bullied.


Using junk food as a reward for good behavior derails healthy eating efforts Environment is constantly pushing children in the wrong direction, pediatrician says Obese youth more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes Stress damages a child's ability for self-control, which leads to a higher body mass index

Editor's note: This is the fourth story in CNN's series exploring the issues surrounding childhood obesity.

(CNN) -- Lyn McDonald is doing everything right.

After losing more than 80 pounds, she taught her kids how to control their portion sizes, shop at the farmers market, eat vegetables with every meal and avoid a lot of sugar.

Her efforts are working. At a time when approximately one-third of American children are overweight or obese, McDonald's kids are at healthy weights.

So why is every day still a struggle for the blogger and mother of five?

"I have had to deal with teachers who hand out Skittles, candy bars, lollipops and giant frosted sugar cookies to the children in class ... before 10 a.m.," McDonald says. "I think this is setting kids up for failure and un-teaching the healthy habits I have instilled."

The fact that doughnuts and cupcakes are given out as a reward after soccer practice or dance class is a paradoxical hurdle in the fight against childhood obesity. As doctors and parents struggle to encourage healthy behaviors, our sugar-filled, sedentary surroundings resist every step.

Think about it, says Dr. Stephen Daniels, chief pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado. Every day kids are exposed to advertising about fast food instead of home-cooked meals. They're surrounded by vending and soda machines at school. They have hundreds of channels on TV, own three video game systems and live in neighborhoods that were built without sidewalks.

"Our environment is constantly pushing kids in the wrong direction."

Childhood obesity isn't just a cosmetic issue, although studies have shown overweight children are often isolated and bullied by their peers.

This is setting kids up for failure and un-teaching the healthy habits I have instilled.
Lyn McDonald

Obese youth are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, liver disease and bone and joint problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excess fat has also been linked to many types of cancer. About two-thirds of obese children grow up to be obese adults.

Gary Evans is an environmental and developmental psychologist at Cornell University. His latest study, published this year in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed the effects of stress on weight gain in children and adolescents.

Researchers know that both adults and children seek higher fat foods in response to stress. Evans and his team found that stress also damages a child's ability for self-control, which leads to a higher body mass index as a teen.

Evans examined children who were dealing with stressful situations, such as poverty, single parenthood, housing problems and domestic violence. In the study, stress hormones hurt the brain's pre-frontal cortex -- the one responsible for our ability to plan and avoid temptations -- at the cellular level.

See also: How to stop your kids from stressing

It's kind of a quadruple whammy, Evans notes. Lower income children have less healthy food stores nearby, more junk food available because it's cheap, fewer places to play outdoors and, as his team found out, a harder time curbing bad impulses.

"If you are born poor, your life expectancy is less," Evans wrote in an e-mail. "Perhaps even more striking ... upward mobility does not remove the ill effects of early childhood poverty on subsequent health and well-being."

For parents trying to raise healthy kids, this is all kind of depressing.

"What we need to do as a society is work to make the healthier choice the easier choice," says Daniels.

There has been movement in that direction. Policymakers are issuing new rules for healthier food in schools and local programs are encouraging more activity. But realistically, an environmental overhaul could take years.

There's a danger in being too pessimistic about the influence we have on the ways our kids live, Daniels says. Research shows that children who lose weight are less likely to gain it back than teenagers or adults.

As hard as it is to make a change at age 10, it's that much easier than at 30 or 40.
Dr. Stephen Daniels

"As hard as it is to make a change at age 10, it's that much easier than at 30 or 40."

Twins Molly and Chris McGann, 15, are perfect examples of this. In third grade, Molly was bullied for being overweight. The McGanns started attending the Shape Down program at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Shape Down's instructors taught the whole family how to measure their food, cook with different colors -- broccoli, red peppers, carrots -- and include exercise in their daily lives. Molly dropped the extra pounds and is still at a healthy weight.

Her twin Chris hit a tough spot in middle school when undiagnosed sleep apnea caused his weight to creep up. As a teenager he is finding it more difficult to stay on track because of peer pressure. His school cafeteria, for instance, has a pizza buffet and a long line of desserts available every day.

"My friends eat the pizza and the Little Debbie cakes and they're all as thin as rails," he says. "It's really hard to walk by that stuff because it looks so good. I just think I want to be healthy, I want to lose weight and I know if I eat those things it's not going to happen."

Daniels doesn't talk about dieting or weight loss with his patients. He talks about getting the entire family on board to eat healthier and be more active.

"You have to understand what kinds of behaviors are leading to the problem and the changes to take," he says. "It's helpful to go slow. It's about simple goals. You don't have to get to a perfect weight in order to have the health benefits."

For more help conquering your environment, the Mayo Clinic has suggestions on making weight loss a family affair.

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Why is it so hard for kids to lose weight?

Feb 17

New Book, "Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out", Soars to Number 1 on the Amazon Bestseller Charts

New Book, "Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out", Soars to Number 1 on the Amazon Bestseller Charts


Nationwide (February 16, 2012) -- After appearing on the Steve Harvey Morning Show last week, nutritionist JJ Smith's new book, Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out was the #1 Health, Fitness and Dieting book, and #4 in overall books, on the bestseller charts.

The book offers a breakthrough solution that "helps you lose weight without counting calories, starving yourself, or eating bland packaged foods. You will see results even if you don't maintain an exercise regimen."

"I can recall two times in my life, in my twenties and again in my thirties, that I was very committed to losing weight so I followed all the typical advice to 'eat less and exercise more' but it just didn't work for me. So, being a nutritionist, I designed a weight-loss system, the Detox-Eat-Move (DEM) System, that has helped me and my clients shed pounds fast. The results in just a few short weeks are remarkable," says Smith.

According to Smith, "the DEM System is NOT a diet, but a lifestyle of healthy living! The DEM System is a three-phase system that allows you to get rid of stubborn body fat and reverse some of your health issues and ailments, restoring your body to optimal health." Interested ones can learn more about the book at

The nutritionist-designed program provides easy-to-follow guidelines for eating "clean and balanced" foods that not only helps readers lose weight, but cause them to look and feel younger and healthier than they have in years. The DEM System features methods to detoxify the body, balance hormones, and speed up metabolism. Readers will learn how to eat foods that help them stay slim and avoid foods that cause them to get fat.

Smith comments, "I realized there were a lot of hard-working people like me who didn't always have time to diet or exercise, but still wanted to lose weight and stay slim; And now, this program is designed just for them."

In the book, readers will learn to:

* Detoxify the body for fast weight loss.
* Drop pounds and inches fast, without grueling workouts or starvation.
* Lose up to 15 pounds in the first three weeks.
* Shed unwanted fat by eating foods you love, including carbs.
* Get rid of stubborn belly fat.
* Trigger your 6 fat-burning hormones to lose weight effortlessly.
* Eat foods that give you glowing, radiant skin.
* Eat so you feel energetic and alive every day.

JJ Smith's revolutionary DEM system teaches proven methods for permanent weight loss that anyone can follow, no matter their size, income level, or educational level. And the end result is a healthy, sexy, slim body. For more details about the book, visit

About the Author:
JJ Smith ( is a nutritionist and certified weight-loss expert who has been featured on The Steve Harvey Morning Show, The Montel Williams Show, The Jamie Foxx Show and on the NBC, FOX, CBS and CW networks. Her advice has also been featured in the pages of Glamour, Essence, Heart and Soul and Ladies Home Journal. Since reclaiming her health, losing weight, and discovering a "second youth" in her forties, bestselling author JJ Smith has become the voice of inspiration to those who want to lose weight, be healthy, and get their sexy back! JJ may be contacted by email at and on Twitter: jjsmithonline and Facebook Page: RealTalkJJ

JJ Smith

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New Book, "Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out", Soars to Number 1 on the Amazon Bestseller Charts

Feb 17

New Program Could Pay You To Lose Weight

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – You’ve heard of bowling for dollars, but what about dieting for dollars?

A new weight loss program is offering big cash rewards if you can shed some pounds.

It’s weight loss with a twist where you gamble on yourself.

KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen met up with five co-workers who decided to give the weight loss gamble a try.

They call themselves the “skinny-dippers.”

“We are excited, it’s awesome, it’s a great incentive,” the group said.

The fab five are in a competition with teams across the country. If you lose the most weight, your team wins $10,000.

“I think working as a team is the best part because we can check on each other. We are enjoying it and hoping to bring home that $10,000,” Julia Burkhart said.

Lose weight, gain money is the brainchild of HealthyWage CEO David Roddenberry. His company’s concept is simple in that gambling on losing weight works.

“You’re putting up some money to win money. It’s making weight loss fun, more achievable and more successful,” Roddenberry said.

The company offers three different programs:

The BMI challenge: Wager $300 to win $1,000 if you lower your BMI from obese to normal in one year.

The 10 percent challenge: Wager: $100 to win $200 if you lose 10 percent of your body weight in six months.

Then, there’s the team challenge.

That’s what the “skinny-dippers” are doing. They gamble $60 dollars each and their team has three months to lose the most weight to win $10,000.

Amy Goodman, a team member, said thinking about the money helps.

“The $10,000 is a real good motivation,” Goodman said.

The team started back in November of 2011, and three months later they were lighter, healthier, but unfortunately not $10,000 richer.

“We didn’t win the money, but we certainly lost the weight,” Nancy Mallinder said.

They lost a combined 93 pounds, shed seven percent of their body weight and they came in 23rd out of 205 teams.

“We feel really good. I mean it’s a pretty big accomplishment. We wanted to be one, but 23 I think is pretty good,” Burkhart said.

The “skinny-dippers” aren’t ready to give up either. They’re already gambling again. They have until April 20, 2012, to lose the weight.

HealthyWage said it handed out $500,000 in winnings to participants in 2011.

For more information visit the HealthyWage website here.


More Local News
More Health News
More Reports From Susan Koeppen

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New Program Could Pay You To Lose Weight

Feb 17

Lose more weight by making it a team effort: study

Maybe it's the spirit of competition. Maybe it's the peer pressure. But a new study suggests partnering up with a buddy to shed some extra pounds after researchers found that people who stay together lose together.

Not unlike the US reality TV show Big Fat Loser, which follows teams of overweight Americans as they shed pounds, a team of US researchers says that weight loss can be "contagious" when undertaken in a competitive, social environment.

Previous studies have also found the opposite can be true: that obesity can likewise be contagious.

The study, published online last week in the journal Obesity, was based on data from a 2009 online weight loss competition in Rhode Island that spanned 12 weeks. About 3,330 overweight and obese participants represented 987 teams averaging 5 to 11 members.

Researchers found that those who lost significant amounts of weight -- defined as at least five percent of their initial body weight -- tended to be on the same teams, while being on a team with more people was also associated with greater weight loss.

Those who reported higher levels of social influence among teammates also increased their odds of achieving increased weight loss by 20 percent.

A 2010 study out of Harvard suggested that having obese friends also increases a person's chance of becoming obese.

Meanwhile, was created specifically to help people find a support system in their weight loss endeavor and matches people up online by sex, age, location, interests and the number of pounds to lose.

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Lose more weight by making it a team effort: study

Feb 15

Looking To Lose Weight? Try Eating With Someone Else

( - Researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, have found that women who dine with other women whom they have not previously met are likely to consume only as much food as their dining partner.

This phenomenon, known as mimicry, has previously been documented by researchers who are attempting to discover its causes and effects.

"The aim of our study was to gain insight into one of the possible underlying mechanisms of this modeling effect, namely behavioral mimicry," said researcher R.C.J. Hermans.

"We did not test whether people deliberately or unwittingly mimicked the other's intake. Based on previous research on behavioral mimicry, however, I am likely to say that this is an unconscious process. This assumption is underscored by previous findings of our lab, in which we found that people are generally unaware of the social influences that might affect their food intake," Hermans adds.

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Looking To Lose Weight? Try Eating With Someone Else

Feb 15

Teenage girls skip breakfast in order to lose weight

By Laura Clark

Last updated at 2:03 AM on 15th February 2012

Teenage girls are regularly skipping breakfast and lunch because they want to lose weight, a major survey of children’s lifestyles has revealed.

Nearly a third of 14 and 15-year-olds often miss breakfast, one in five skip lunch and up to one in 12 routinely goes without either.

The numbers missing meals has nearly doubled in a generation, according to the survey which was first conducted in the 1980s.

Teenage girls, image on left posed by model, are shunning protein and dairy foods in an apparent effort to keep as thin as celebrity role models, such as Kate Moss

The findings suggest that Jamie Oliver’s healthy school meals drive is having little impact on young girls whose desire to be thin puts them off lunches altogether.

But the study, from a respected research body, also suggests that children’s eating habits generally are becoming healthier.


Youngsters are less likely to eat crisps, sweets, chocolate, sugar-coated cereals and chips and more likely to eat vegetables than they were just 10 years ago, it emerged.

For the study, the Exeter-based Schools Health Education Unit surveyed 83,000 10 to 15-year-olds about their lifestyles in 2010.

Body image: Teenage girls can be obsessed with their weight

The findings were compared with results from as early as 1983, giving a database of answers from 750,000 young people.

Asked about their breakfast on the day of the poll, 31 per cent of girls in year 10 - aged 14 and 15 - admitted eating nothing at all.

Twenty-four per cent of 12 and 13-year-old girls had skipped it while 12 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds had also gone without.

At the same time, 18 per cent of older girls and 14 per cent of 12 and 13-year-olds skipped lunch the day before.

Some eight per cent had eaten neither breakfast nor lunch the previous day.

The proportion claiming to have missed lunch had nearly doubled since 1986.

Just 10 per cent of year 10 girls skipped lunch 25 years ago.

Meanwhile figures dating back to 1991 show how increasing numbers of youngsters want to lose weight.

Sixty per cent of older girls wanted to lose weight in 2010, against 50 per cent 20 years ago.

Claire Rick, a spokesman for the School Food Trust, said skipping lunch had an impact on how pupils perform in lessons.

‘Skipping lunch doesn’t just leave pupils feeling hungry and tired - it really does affect their performance in the classroom,’ she said.

‘Our research shows that children are far more able to concentrate and focus with their teachers after a healthy meal at lunchtime, and we hear from schools all the time about the impact of better food for children’s behaviour at school.

‘That’s why it’s so important that the school dining room is a place where pupils want to spend their lunchtimes, and that we continue working on all of the factors that will encourage more pupils to opt for a healthy school lunch.’


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Teenage girls skip breakfast in order to lose weight

Feb 15

Yes, you can eat out and lose weight

If you’re trying to control your weight, frequent restaurant meals are usually the first to be banished. A wise decision, since many restaurants serve up high-calorie foods in large portions. Consider that a typical steak dinner – with the works – has 1,000-plus calories and a plate of seafood pasta can deliver as many as 1,200 calories (before the bread!). Even an entrée salad with chicken can have 800 calories or more.

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Indeed, many studies have shown that people who eat out often consume more calories and fat and carry more body fat than folks who routinely eat meals prepared at home.

But according to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, frequent restaurant eating doesn’t have to make you gain weight. The results suggest it’s possible to eat out and, believe it or not, even lose a few pounds.

For the study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin enrolled 35 healthy perimenopausal women, aged 40 to 59, who ate out at least three times a week. Nineteen were placed in a six-week program called Mindful Restaurant Eating that helps develop skills to reduce calorie and fat intake when dining out. The remaining 16 women did not participate in the program and served as the control group.

Women in the prevention group attended six weekly, two-hour sessions. Each session included discussions on managing weight, weekly goals, eating-out strategies and mindful eating meditation. That mediation involved exercises aimed at becoming aware of hunger and satiety and helping appreciate the sight, smell and texture of food in order to increase satisfaction with smaller portions.

The focus was not on losing weight but rather preventing weight gain, an important goal for women during the perimenopausal years when extra weight tends to accumulate around the abdomen, increasing the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

That said, women enrolled in the Mindful Restaurant Eating program lost an average of 3.7 pounds and 1.2 inches from their waists after six weeks. There was no change in body weight or waist circumference among women in the control group.

The number of times each week women ate out in restaurants did not change, indicating they were successfully able to manage their weight while continuing their usual, frequent eating-out patterns. Women who completed the program reduced their daily intake by 297 calories, about half accounted for during eating out. Fewer calories were also eaten at home.

The bottom line: With a series of strategies, it is possible to control and manage what and how much you eat in restaurants. But without a game plan, it’s easy to eat more – and gain weight – without intending to.

Start by doing your homework. Many restaurants post nutrition numbers and other healthy eating tips on their websites. It’s useful information that can help you decide what to order.

I’m willing to bet if you knew in advance that the Keg’s Crème Brulée packs in 825 calories, you’d resist the temptation. Knowing that Swiss Chalet’s full rack of BBQ ribs has 1,300 calories – and 900 milligrams of sodium – might prompt you to order a half rack.

Be assertive when dining out. If you don’t know what’s in a dish or don’t know the serving size, ask. The following tips will help you make healthier choices in restaurants.

To cut fat, especially saturated fat:

• When ordering grilled meat, fish or chicken, ask that it be grilled without butter or oil.

• Choose tomato-based pasta dishes rather than creamy ones. Alfredo and rosé sauces are made with whipping cream, which delivers a hefty amount of saturated fat.

• Stick with broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups and chowders. To increase your intake of fibre-rich legumes, choose minestrone, lentil and bean soups most often.

• Order sandwiches made with whole grain bread instead of white bread or high-fat croissants.

• Order steamed vegetables, green salad, or steamed brown rice instead of French fries.

• Ask for salsa with a baked potato instead of butter, sour cream, cheese or bacon.

• Watch out for healthy-sounding salads. Entrée salads laden with cheese, bacon and plenty of dressing can have more fat and calories than an all-dressed burger.

• Request lower-fat items even if they’re not on the menu – fat-reduced salad dressings, salsa for a baked potato, or berries for dessert.

To reduce sodium:

• Stay clear of menu items described as pickled, marinated, smoked, barbequed, smothered (in sauce), teriyaki, soy sauce, broth, miso, gravy, bacon, and of course, salted or salty. These words indicate higher sodium meals.

• Order dressings, gravies and condiments on the side. Salad dressings, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard and pickles can add considerably to the sodium content of a meal. Request them separate from your meal and use them sparingly. You’ll save calories too.

• If ordering pizza, skip the processed meat toppings and order half the usual amount of cheese.

• Request your meal to be prepared without added salt, MSG or sodium-containing ingredients such as soy sauce and broths.

To slim down portion size

• Ask that half your meal be boxed up “to go” before you start eating. If you leave it sitting on your plate you’ll be more likely to eat it.

• Order two appetizers, or an appetizer and a side salad, instead of a large entrée. Consider sharing an entrée.

• Cut down on starchy side dishes. Skip the bread if the meal comes with rice, potato or pasta. Ask for extra vegetables instead of the potatoes or rice. Order a half-portion of pasta.

• Slow your pace. After every bite, put down your knife and fork and chew your food thoroughly.

• Stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach has had enough food.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is

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Yes, you can eat out and lose weight

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