More Summertime Ideas

June 24, 2011 in General, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

In her last post, Summertime – Managing the Grill, Dr. Grandma gives some very good reasons for reducing meat consumption and offers great suggestions on how to do that. Based on current research, you might want to add potatoes – such as potato chips, potato salad, and baked potatoes that are traditionally combined with the meat off of the grill -- to the list of foods you want to eliminate or minimize the consumption of.

The research, published this week, found that potato chips, other potatoes, sugary drinks, processed and unprocessed meat are the foods most strongly linked to creeping weight gain. The researchers said their evidence supports the idea that "eat less and exercise more" may be too simplistic a weight-loss strategy and that it is the quality of food that matters most. The researchers concluded that making a handful of small, targeted changes is likely to be more effective.

According to the analysis of studiesthat followed more than 120,000 adults for 20 years, an average adult gains about one pound per year. The researchers they found that small changes in diet, consumption of beverages, physical activity, watching TV, and sleep duration were most strongly linked to long-term weight gain. Diet was the strongest of these factors. This is good news! If small changes can send you in the direction of obesity, small changes can also send you in the direction of attaining a healthy weight.

Brian Wansink states in his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think that the danger of creeping calories lies in the fact that just 10 extra calories a day – a little less than 2/3-teaspoon of sugar, three jellybeans or one stick of Doublemint gum will make you gain 1 pound in a year – the amount that the average adult gains as sited in the study above. So, going in the other direction – reducing the amount you eat by 10 extra calories a day will result in a 1-pound weight loss.

To give us insight into our eating habits Wansink begins Mindless Eating with the statement, “Everyone – every single one of us – eats how much we eat largely because of what’s around us. We overeat not because of hunger but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers. The list is almost as endless as it is invisible.” And he has the research to back up this statement; I find this quite interesting! He states that most of us believe how much we eat is determined by hunger, but his research concludes that people are almost never aware of what is driving their eating. According to Wansink, “We all think we’re too smart to be tricked by packages, lighting, or plates.” Hmmm.

This gives me a different perspective on the research that where you get your news could play a significant role in determining what you perceive as the best strategy for addressing childhood obesity. According to a study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, people whose primary news source is television are more likely to focus on individual behavior changes as a solution to combating childhood obesity. On the flip side, people who got their news primary from newspapers are more likely to identify system-level solutions.

My first impression after reading the research was that that focusing on individual behavior changes would be the superior strategy – people taking responsibility for their actions and not depending on government controls of an industry that spends billions on lobbying and advertising each year. But then, I started reading Wansink’s book. His question, “Did you ever eat the last piece of crusty, dried-out chocolate cake even though it tasked like chocolate scented cardboard?” caught my attention – dang, why does that happen? According to Wansink, we “overeat because there are signals and cues around us that tell us to eat.” Usually when I go the grocery store or out to eat, I try not to pay attention to all of the hype. But, according to Wansink, the influence of marketing and packaging is profound. Perhaps more regulation would be a good thing.

One of tips in Mindless Eating is to select three, do-able, easy 100 calorie changes that you can make each day. To make sure that you stick with implementing the changes, Wansink suggests a daily checklist. Put the numbers 1 – 31 at the top of a sheet of paper to represent days of the week. List each change at the side to form a chart. You get a check if you made the change that day. At the end of the month, you add up the number of checks. You multiple the sum by 100 to determine how many calories you saved in the month by implementing the changes – pretty slick.

In addition to the 100-calorie changes, you could also add exercise, adhering to food policies that you create for yourself – such as no white potatoes and soda – and any other healthy habits that you want to incorporate. The checklist can be a simple tool to keep you on track for healthy living through summer barbeques, parties and other events. If it takes 30 days to make a behavior a habit, you have more than twice the amount of time you need left this summer. Take advantage of this natural time of the year to shed yourself of unwanted pounds and implement habits that will help you make healthy weight a lifelong habit.

Remember too that Dr. Grandma’s has great recipes to help you reduce added sugars and add whole grains. Dr. Grandma’s Muffin Mix allows you to easily make healthy snacks and scrumptious desserts for summer fun. Make your barbeques and summer meals extra special with Dr. Grandma’s yummy recipes. Enjoy your summer in good, healthy ways.