Weight Loss Advice from a Dietician/Nutritionist
Some notes and learnings from visiting with a nutritionist
I recently went to a dietician/nutritionist. I wasn't excited about going. I only went because my wife begged me to. My extreme high blood pressure and lack of energy were scaring her.
I didn't want somebody telling what I can and can't eat. I've read so many diet and fitness books and I've heard all the theories of losing weight. Which one was I going to get from this guy?
And I'll just say, this guy had better be fit himself. If I get some pudgy dad-body type guy giving me advice, I'll turnaround and walk out.
A small part of me was hopeful though - hopeful for a change.
Like I said, I've read lots of diet books. I've tried lots of "diets" and plans. Each promise success and the failure is always me - not the diet.
Here is my biggest problem - I love food! I enjoy eating good food. I don't mind having a spare tire as long as I get to enjoy ice cream!
So first impressions of the doctor - the guy was ripped!. I couldn't help but stare at the veins bulging out of his unusually large biceps. He definitely looked fit.
So I spent maybe 30 minutes going over my history. I explained my history of playing sports and not being able to gain weight in high school. I explained how it all changed when I got a job and began sitting at a computer all day. I explained my cancer and its treatment. I explained my herniated discs in my back. I explained the recent high blood pressure that landed me in the ER.
When I was younger I could make some basic changes and lose weight fast. That no longer works for me now. In the past, I'd hit my maximum allowable weight (242 = 20% over my marriage weight). And then I'd do something to lose weight. But I generally get down to about 230 and feel better and then go back to my "normal" lifestyle.
Now, the quick fixes were not working and I was sitting in his office near my highest weight ever - 248.
After I explained my history, the doctor started to teach me. He was drawing diagrams and writing very legibly upside down!
He gave me some great news. He said he didn't want me counting calories. PERFECT! I HATE counting calories. He told me that it often keeps you focused on food, which is not what you want to be focused on all day anyway.
Second, he told me to eat what I truly want to eat. WHAT!? That's right. I can have ice-cream every day if I want, I just need to eat less.
I can't write up everything I learned in his office that day. It would take forever. But if I were to summarize everything into 4 rules of eating and exercise it would look like this:
- It has to be pleasant.
- At least 20 minutes
- Above normal (pick up the pace)
- Allow yourself to eat any food you truly want
- When eating, do nothing else
- Start out with much less than you think you need
- Wait 20 minutes before having more (and drink non-caloric fluid during the meal)
Now for some additional notes and clarification on some the "rules" above.
He reiterated something I've heard many times. Exercise is not about weight loss. You cannot burn enough calories to make up for bad eating habits.
Exercise helps many other aspects of your mental and physical health. Activity changes HOW YOU ARE BUILT. You regenerate better DNA when you are consistently active.
The first two rules of eating are about SATISFACTION. I won't continue with any eating plan if I never feel satisfied.
Rule #1 makes it sound like I can eat anything. While that is sort of true, I did get advice on what to eat to change how I FUNCTION. He recommends at least one serving (he demonstrated a serving my cupping his hands like an all-state commercial) per day of the following:
- Whole Grains
- Lean Proteins
- 1 tsp healthy oils
Rule #2 I like to call "mindful eating". I put all distractions away and I focus on the food in front of me. No working. No reading. No podcasts. I can enjoy a conversation with someone or have some music in the background. But other than that, when I'm eating, I'm eating.
Rule #3 is about quantity. I've heard this a lot and I've debated whether it is really true or not, but now I do believe that weight loss is about calories in/calories out. A great example of this was an experiment by a nutrition professor named Mark Haub where he essentially ate junk for 10 weeks, but limited his calories and still lost weight. (I'm definitely not advocating a junk food diet here - just illustrating a point)
My doctor used all the proper terms for hormones that control our hunger such as polypeptides and leptin, etc. But basically, when we start eating, it takes about 20 minutes for our stomach to signal to our brain that we are full. This is the reason for #4.
I can always go back and have seconds if I'm still full, but I need to start with less that I think I need.
In the past, I would rarely drink fluids when I eat - especially at restaurants. You're going to think I'm crazy, but in the spirit of full disclosure, this was my thinking process: If I drink anything, I'll get full faster and won't be able to finish all this food I just paid for.
I laugh at this now because I'm the opposite. My doctor suggested layering - food, fluid, food, fluid, food...
At some point during all this training, I realized I was wearing a Dr. Pepper t-shirt. I was kind of embarrassed when I thought about it. Here I was visiting a nutritionist with a soda t-shirt on.
I know soda is bad for you. My of my life I didn't drink soda. In the past couple of years, I've started drinking Dr. Pepper. I don't drink a lot. Even at my most gluttonous periods, it was generally not more than 1 can per day.
But this doctor said that non-calorie sodas and drinks are fine and will not cause you to gain weight. In fact, he said, "Have you tried Dr. Pepper Ten? It is amazing!" It is now my favorite soda.
So now when I eat, I'm more mindful. I put my phone away and enjoy what I'm eating. I drink a lot of fluid while I eat. I'm feeling better and I've been losing about 2 lbs per week.
One other thing stood out during this meeting. He said, "If you could pick any weight to be stable at and be happy for the rest of your life what would it be?"
Without hesitation, I said 220 lbs. It was how much I weighed when I got married. Could I go lower? Sure. But having never been back down to 220 lbs in the last 19 years, I could certainly be happy there for the rest of my life.
My doctor seemed so excited about this. He said you ONLY have to lose 28 pounds. That is so easy! I think he said that in some form or another at least 3 times - ONLY 28 POUNDS.
I left that office feeling so excited. Now it is ONLY 20 lbs to go. Only 20 lbs. ONLY.