Top 5 Obstacles to Weight Loss

May 7, 2013

Woman on ScaleAs I flipped my calendar to May, whether or not I could believe that we’re already through 4 months of 2013, I’m reminded that it’s almost time for summer! I love this time of year. But it also means that it’s time to expose our bodies–that have been in hibernation now for months. Are you ready for shorts and swimsuits?

You may have already been thinking about getting in shape for summer and hopefully have already gotten a good start. (Remember it’s not realistic to think you’ll drop 20 pounds in one month). Whether or not your goal is to lose a few pounds by pool season or you’re on track for a long-term weight loss goal, there are five common reasons that people get stalled on their weight loss journey.

1. Underestimating
Most people (even sometimes food experts) underestimate how many calories they consume. This can be related to eating more often, eating larger portion sizes or not knowing how a food is prepared. Recording everything you eat–on paper or in an electronic food journal–can help you be more aware of how much you are actually taking in. And every calorie counts! So don’t forget about “bites” and “tastes” or “just that one little piece.” Pay attention to portion sizes and use measuring tools (measuring cups or a scale) when you can to double-check yourself. Read food labels or do some research (yes, the Internet is handy) to find out what a reasonable portion size is as well as its nutrition facts. Keep in mind that foods eaten outside of the home tend to come in large portion sizes and often contain more fats, sugars and calories than we may be aware of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled! You have to check out the facts–the nutrition facts, that is. Look up information before you go, check an app or the restaurant’s website and pick a healthy option before you go.

2. Overestimating
It’s also easy to overestimate how many calories you burn in exercise. Yes, it may be hard work to jog a mile, but that really only burns 100 calories. Typically a person needs to burn 500 calories daily in order to lose 1 pound per week. This entails a consistent exercise routine, consisting of at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise 5 days per week. If this is a lofty goal for you, it’s okay to start with something that is smaller and more attainable. Start walking a few days per week or buy a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day. Just be honest about how many calories are actually being burned and don’t allow yourself to eat extra just because you exercised!

3. Poor timing of meals
Food is energy, so that means a person needs to eat consistently throughout the day to maintain energy levels (and a stable blood sugar). Start with a balanced breakfast within an hour of waking up, then eat a healthy snack or meal every 3 to 5 hours. It’s best to stop eating an hour or two before bed. Just make sure that all meals and snacks fit within your daily calorie and carbohdyrate goals.

4. Poor food choices
Eating frequently throughout the day can help you stay energized, but only if you’re making wise selections. It’s not a free pass to stop by the vending machine for a candy bar or chips! Meals and snacks should be a combination of healthy carbs (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and lean protein or healthy fat. Try an apple with peanut butter, for instance.

5. Inadequate or poor sleep
Studies show that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night (or have poor sleep) have higher levels of ghrelin–a hormone that stimulates appetite, particularly for high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods. Less sleep also raises the level of cortisol, a stress hormone that can promote weight gain. In addition, recent research also shows that poor sleep is linked to increased insulin resistance, inefficient use of our own natural insulin, which can lead to elevated blood glucose levels in those with diabetes, high triglycerides and weight gain.

So if you’re on the road to weight loss but have found yourself stalled, give yourself a five point check-up! If you need more help, it’s never a bad idea to check in with your dietitian or diabetes educator too.


Is it Nutrition Fact or Fiction?

March 26, 2013

Question Mark_StrawberriesWe’re wrapping up National Nutrition Month and that means March is coming to a close already. Time flies! We have one final activity for you as we wind down the nutrition celebration.

Although you’ve probably heard a lot about nutrition this month, you will likely continue to hear something about nutrition or health everyday. What foods you should eat, what foods you shouldn’t eat, the newest weight loss trick or a supplement that can make diabetes control easier. How do you separate fact from fiction?

Of course you should seek guidance from your physician, dietitian or diabetes educator. But in the meantime, you can test your nutrition knowledge here: The Nutrition Fact or Fiction Quiz from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow the link, then scroll to the bottom and click on the “Fact or Fiction” icon.

See how you do and tell us how you scored by posting a comment below! Explanations follow each quiz question. We hope you learn something new and spread the word to others you know.

If you have questions or need help with your personal meal plan, contact the Registered Dietitians at St. Anthony’s.


Rate Your Plate Quiz

March 12, 2013

MyPlate Color GraphicAre you “eating right?”

Test your eating habits by taking the “Rate Your Plate” quiz from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow the link, then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “Rate Your Plate” icon. It’s a simple 10-question quiz that will give you more information about how you’re doing and what you can change to make your diet healthier.

Let us know how you do by commenting below!

A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from the different food groups pictured on MyPlate. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include recommendations on how many servings from each of these groups we need each day to meet our bodies’ nutrition needs. These guidelines are generally appropriate for everyone. If you have been given specific dietary guidelines from your doctor or dietitian, you should follow those.

If you have questions about your personal dietary goals or need help incorporating these guidelines into your diet, contact the Registered Dietitians at St. Anthony’s.

App Review: MyNetDiary

December 18, 2012

Man in white shirt holding green apple uid 1341813

If you have a smartphone, you’ve likely found the simplicity that apps can bring to your life. In the palm of your hand, you have the ability to hold your address book, calendar, task list, weather report, atlas, facebook, twitter and pinterest accounts…and the list goes on and on.

There are also many terrific apps for keeping a food, activity, medication and blood glucose record on your phone–also bringing ease and simplicity to an otherwise tedious task. Studies show that in addition to nutrition counseling, keeping a food record in an app can help you lose weight too (read more here). I’ve tried out many of the record-keeping apps that are out there and would like to present one of my favorites: MyNetDiary. (And by the way, if you don’t have a smartphone, don’t worry. It’s available on the web too.)

The key to any record-keeping method is simplicity. If it’s not quick and easy, you’re less likely to keep it going consistently. And consistency is the key to success! MyNetDiary is available on many mediums: iPhone, Android, Blackberry, iPad and the Internet. There are free and paid plans available.

The Calorie Counter app and website are available for free. It’s a good place to start to find out how MyNetDiary can work for you. You have access to the basic food log, in which you can enter and track the foods you eat daily. It tracks calories for each meal, and you can also see a daily report analyzing your intake of all the major nutrients, including carbohydrates, fat, protein, fiber and more. Track your exercise too.

MyNetDiary Pro has more features and is available for $3.99. In the Pro version of the app, you can also elect to show how many carbs you eat at each meal, along with calories. You can scan bar codes, which makes searching for products a breeze. The Pro version includes daily and weekly reports of your food intake plus the ability to track more measurements than just your weight (BMI, body fat, waist measurement, etc).

The new iPhone Diabetes Tracker is for sale in the app store for $9.99. It’s fully-loaded and COOL. It includes MyNetDiary Pro and comprehensive diabetes tracking. Track your blood glucose (and set up custom blood sugar goals), insulin, carb intake, medications and A1C. View daily and weekly reports that include all the information you entered. Really see the big picture of how your food, exercise and medications impact your blood sugar control. Ditch the logbook–it’s all right in the palm of your hand!

Looking for the absolute maximum? With a monthly membership fee, MyNetDiary Maximum includes all of the above plus comprehensive nutrition analysis, FitBit integration, exportable reports, autopilot and exercise planning. See the link below for more information.

All the plans include one of the largest food databases around. You can search and find generic foods, brand names and even restaurant foods. Compare all the plans available here.

Bottom line is: monitoring helps you be more successful in managing diabetes and your health by helping you reach your goals and track your progress. Find out if an app like MyNetDiary will work for you!

Other apps we like include: MyFitnessPal, Restaurant Nutrition and Calorie King.

Just FYI: St. Anthony’s is not affiliated with the MyNetDiary program nor were they compensated for providing this review. We just like this app!

Lose Weight By Eating Mindfully

November 27, 2012

Since the holiday season seems to revolve around food, it is the perfect opportunity to practice what is called “mindful eating.”

Lilian Chueng, D. Sc., RD is the co-author of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful LifeShe writes about attaining a healthy weight while leading a life that is more satisfying by practicing mindful eating–paying attention to what and how we eat.

Instead of dieting, which is difficult to adhere to, regularly practicing mindful eating becomes rewarding in many ways. Aside from losing weight by consuming smaller quantities of higher quality foods, mindful eaters find themselves gaining energy, emotional stability, compassion, gratitude and joy through learning to enjoy and appreciate food more. Mindful eating is a principal that creates a healthy relationship with food and also speaks to the compassion, joy and giving of the holiday season.

The 7 Principles of Mindful Eating

1. Honor the food. We take food for granted because it is so easy to attain. As you prepare and eat your food, remember where it comes from and how it came to you. Think of how it was grown–the sun, the rain and the farmers who cultivated it–and also the drivers who brought it to the store and the supermarket employees who made it accessible to you. It’s really had quite a journey! Do you feel gratitude?

2. Engage all your senses. Notice the beauty of food, how it smells, tastes and feels. Think about all the variety in flavors and textures in the meals you eat. How do you feel when you look at and eat your food? Do you feel differently when you eat a home-cooked meal versus a fast-food meal?

3. Be mindful of portion sizes. Large portion sizes drive intake of too many calories which leads to weight gain. Don’t allow “your eyes to be bigger than your stomach.” Start with a modest portion size on a plate no bigger than 9-inches. We have the innate desire to want to fill our plates–so using a larger plate means you’re more likely to eat more.

4. Chew. That sounds easy! Focus on chewing your food thoroughly and not eating too fast. The longer your food is in your mouth, the more you taste it. When you swallow your food, you no longer taste it. Chewing thoroughly also helps begin the process of digestion.

5. Eat slowly. Yes, you’ve heard it before. But how often do you practice it? Eating slowly allows you to take more time to chew and taste the food you’re eating. It also gives your stomach a chance to signal your brain that it is getting full, so you eat less.

6. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals usually backfires, causing you to get hungrier and eat a larger portion at one sitting than you would at multiple meals spread throughout the day. Eating regularly also helps keep blood sugars stable and the metabolism working, assisting with weight management and loss. Cheung suggests an energy-sustaining breakfast containing whole grains, protein and whole fruit.

7. Eat a plant-based diet. Chueng notes, “Research shows that eating red meat increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health also found that red and processed meats may contribute to weight gain.” Plant foods are very nutritious, low in fat and high in fiber.

Watch Dr. Cheung discuss the 7 Practices of Mindful Eating here.

Are you ready to try mindful eating? Challenge yourself! The holiday season is the perfect time to start. I think you’ll be rewarded.

Source: Huffington Post
Photo credit:

Comfort Food Recipe Revamps

November 13, 2012

“Comfort food” might indicate a different recipe for each one of us. Chili? Fried chicken? Mac and cheese? No matter what your favorite comfort food is, nothing else hits the spot quite like it!

Even though comfort foods make us feel good, they are often higher in fat and calories and may not be the best choice for our health. That doesn’t mean they need to be off limits…it just means they need a healthy revamp! Make some simple adjustments to your favorite recipe and you can enjoy it (guilt-free) a lot more often. Now that’s something that I find comforting!

A healthy meal starts with healthy ingredients.
Here are some simple ingredient substitutions that can decrease the amount of fat, calories and/or carbohydrate in your recipes without sacrificing taste:

Swap This…

For This!


Ground beef or sausage
  • 90% (or higher) ground beef
  • Ground sirloin
  • Ground or shredded chicken breast
  • Ground turkey breast
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
Half the meat
  • Beans
  • Textured vegetable protein (soy)
  • Less fat
  • More fiber
Whole milk or cream Fat-free half and half
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
Whole milk cheese Reduced-fat cheese (and use less)
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
Cream cheese Reduced-fat cream cheese (and use less)
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
Sour cream Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
  • Margarine (non-hydrogenated)
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Less saturated fat
  • More healthy unsaturated fats
Whole eggs Egg whites
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
White/enriched pasta Whole wheat pasta
  • More fiber
White/refined rice
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • More fiber
Bacon Paprika (spice)
  • Spices have no calories, fat or carbs!
“Regular” broth Low-sodium broth
  • Less sodium
“Cream of” soups
  • Healthy Request
  • Low-sodium
  • Reduced-fat
  • Look for the Heart check mark
  • Compare labels between cans for a heart-healthy product
Pie crust
  • Graham crackers
  • Use one crust only
  • Less fat
  • Fewer calories
  • Fewer carbs
Sugar Granulated alternative sweetener (like Splenda)
  • Fewer calories
  • Fewer carbs  

Always, always add vegetables!
Vegetables are packed with nutrition, flavor and are very low in calories and carbohydrate (not to mention fat-free). They also add bulk to a recipe so it becomes more filling. Mushrooms, onions, celery and green peppers are versatile vegetables that work in many different recipes.

When the weather gets colder, casseroles, soups and stews warm you up from the inside.
They can also be very healthy and easy to prepare. Use some of the substitutions above to make your favorite mixed dish healthier. Make a big pot or use your crock pot, then package leftovers and freeze them for a quick meal later on. Now you have convenient comfort food too.

Check out these websites for healthy versions of some comforting foods: Low Carb Comfort Foods 22 Scrumptious Stews
Meal Makeover Moms
SparkPeople: 11 Healthy Fall Comfort Foods

Next think about how you cook your favorite recipe.
If it involves frying, which adds extra fat and calories, consider alternative methods of cooking like baking or grilling. Here are a couple recipes for oven-fried chicken–that crispy texture you love without all the fat:

Healthy Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders (SparkPeople)
Oven-Fried Chicken (Ellie Krieger, Food Network RD)
Oven-Fried Chicken Parmesan (Cooking Light)

Who said healthy eating had to be boring? Even your favorites can be prepared in a way that tastes good and is good for you too. Maybe you’ll even find some new favorites!


Get Ready for Our Summer Grilling Series!

June 14, 2012

June 20th marks the official first day of summer, although in some areas we’re already feeling it! That means it’s time to dust off that grill and gear up for outdoor cooking.

Grilling can be a healthy way to prepare food, as long as you have a few tips in your apron. They include picking the right cuts of meat, using the best condiments and sauces, adding healthier side dishes and reducing the risk of cancer-causing potential in charred meats.

This summer we’ll be featuring a series of posts related to all of the above. Stay tuned! The sizzling fun starts next week. You’ll definitely want to stock up on these tips before the 4th of July rolls around!

Want to make sure you don’t miss it? Subscribe to our blog by entering your email address in the box to the right. You’ll be notified by email when we publish a new post (and don’t worry, we won’t use your email address for anything else).

New Weight Loss Drugs Approved

May 29, 2012

On May 10, the FDA ruled in favor of approving the weight loss drug, lorcaserin hydrochloride, which will be sold under the brand name Lorqess. Lorcaserin, along with a similar drug called Qnexa, were denied approval in 2010 after advisory committees found them to be unsafe for general consumption. Approval was granted to both drugs after positive data was provided to the committee this year. Qnexa was approved last February.

Lorqess suppresses the appetite, which helps patients lose weight by causing them to feel less hungry. It is called a selective serotonin 2C receptor agonist and suppresses appetitie by altering various serotonin receptors found within the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is responsible for mediating a person’s appetite and metabolism. It works similarly to the drug fenfluramine (found in the product Fen-Phen), which is now banned for causing various, serious heart problems. The makers of Lorqess say it is far more selective than fenfluramine, demonstrating none of the destructive heart issues through clinical tests. A 52-week test, involving over 3000 obese patients taking 10mg twice daily had an average weight loss of 5.8% (12.7lbs) compared to the placebo groups results of 2.2% (4.7lbs) The study also showed that 22% of lorcaserin-taking patients lost 10% or greater bodyweight as compared to the 7.7% of weight lost in the placebo group. 47.5% of Lorqess patients lost at least 5% of their weight whereas 20.3% of the placebo group lost 5% of their weight.

Qnexa is a product that combines phentermine (weight-loss medication) and topiramate (used to treat seizures), two agents approved by the FDA, in an extended-release capsule, taken once per day. A 56-week study (the EQUIP study) evaluated the efficacy and safety of the Qnexa in 1,267 severely obese patients in the U.S. The following results from the EQUIP study were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Obesity:

  • Average weight loss for Qnexa patients who completed the study and took the top dose was 14.4%, compared to 2.1% in the placebo group
  • Among patients who completed the top dose course of treatment, 83.5% lost ≥5%; 67.7% lost ≥10%; and 48.1% lost ≥15% of their baseline weight; compared to 17%, 7% and 3%, respectively, in the placebo group.

Is a weight loss medication right for you?

Consider this question carefully. Most medications carry a risk of side effects. I would recommend only considering medication as an option for weight loss if traditional weight loss plans have failed. I highly recommend meeting with a dietitian for diet assessment, meal-planning and goal-setting prior to considering a weight-loss medication and throughout treatment. Remember, these weight loss medications aid in hunger control, but in order to be successful in maintaining any weight loss, it is of utmost importance to eat a healthy, balanced diet combined with regular physical activity. If you think you might be ready to try a medicaiton to help you with weight loss, talk with your doctor.

It’s May! Spring into Action!

May 15, 2012

Exercise and activity improve blood glucose and help insulin to work like it should. Springtime is the absolute best and easiest time to be active and exercise! The weather is nice and the bonus is it’s fun!  Here are five simple strategies to incorporate spring activity:

  1. Plant a flower garden. Digging, weeding and fertilizing all involve activity. Plant some flowers that you can actually cut to display in your home and give bouquets to loved ones. It’s a wonderful way to relieve stress too.
  2. Plant a vegetable garden. It is definitely not too late and you’ll be able to reap the rewards all summer. Tomatoes are so delicious and nutritious, and are easily grown here in the St. Louis area! How about green beans, peppers, okra, cucumbers or squash too? I am getting hungry! 
  3. Walk around the ball diamonds when the kids have baseball or softball practice—at least for part of the time.
  4. Don’t forget outdoor games with the youngsters. Some outdoor game ideas include badminton, jarts, catch, Frisbee, basketball, soccer, hide and seek, and hopscotch. There are a lot of different games to play outdoors.
  5. Enjoy your local park.  There are great walking and biking trails in the area. Check out this website to find a park with trails near you: With so many parks to choose from in St. Louis, you can get a change of scenery often. 

So get out there and enjoy the outdoors! Activity will not only benefit your glucose control; it also helps with weight management and stress relief too. Best wishes and happy Spring! 

Written by: Judy Schmitt RD, LD, CDE

Sugar: It’s All The Same

April 18, 2012

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about sugar lately. More than usual, that is. It seems like Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s report on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago started a wildfire in the media, referring to sugar as “toxic” and blaming it for the nation’s obesity and health crises. Is it true? Is all sugar the same? Should we be avoiding it completely or avoiding certain sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup? These are frequently asked questions we get from our patients and some points that seem to get muddled in the media.

Here are some simple, straight-forward answers:

1. Sugar is not toxic. I really despise the reference to sugar as being “toxic” because “toxic” is a word used to describe poisons and chemicals. Sugar is not a poison, nor is it the sole cause of obesity, diabetes or high cholesterol. Sugar is a safe food to eat. The most frequent cause of diabetes and cardiovascular disease is overeating coupled with lack of activity, which leads to overweight and obesity–risk factors for many health conditions.

2. All sugar, be it high fructose corn syrup, honey, syrup, raw sugar or table sugar, is the same to your body. We could get really technical here, but in the end, sugar is broken down into its smallest parts (glucose, fructose or lactose) and your body doesn’t differentiate based on the original source.

3. It is not necessary to avoid sugar of any kind (even if you have diabetes), but there are some limits. Americans are consuming more than the recommended intake of sugar, but we’re doing better. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released a report last year concluding that Americans’ sugar intake has been declining in recent years. However, we still continue to suffer health disparities; to me this clearly demonstrates that we do not need to focus on eliminating sugar. Rather we need to take a big picture, whole diet approach and concentrate on limiting total sugar intake.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting intake of added sugars to 5 teaspoons per day for women (20 grams of sugar) and 9 teaspoons per day for men (36 grams of sugar). It can get tricky when reading labels because sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish which sugars are added and which are naturally-occuring. I advise patients to read labels for sugars on packaged foods and to use your best instincts. For example, if a product is topped with sugar, such as a frosted cereal, that’s a clear signal that sugar has been added. Most of the time, try to select options that don’t have added sugars. Keep in mind that the sugar found in fruit and milk is naturally-occuring. Naturally-occuring sugars do not need to be limited.

It is okay to include moderate amounts of sugar in the context of a healthy eating plan, no matter what the source. In fact, allowing yourself the occasional “indulgence” can make it easier to stick with your meal plan. Become informed about products by reading food labels and be sure to include several servings of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats and healthy fats in your diet daily. Be aware of portion sizes and balance your food intake with regular physical activity as part of a healthy, disease-preventing lifestyle.

If you would like more information or help customizing your individual healthy lifestyle plan, contact a Registered Dietitian at St. Anthony’s.

For additional reading, click here.

Photo credit: Stuart Miles


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