Q&A on Weight Management, Part I

Last week, the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition approached me about contributing a couple blog posts on weight management. They pulled questions from their Twitter community, and my responses will be posted this week and next. The first post went up today covering what people struggle with most and how to stay on track, along with recommendations on how to fit exercise into a busy life. Check it out:


Bell Institute: What do your clients struggle with most when it comes to weight management? How do you help them stay on track?

portion_distortion-burger and fries

Maggie Moon, MS, RD: Wow, this is a tough one. Weight management usually (just about always) means changing behavior, and change is hard. With so many factors that go into why we do the things we do, it can be hard to narrow it down. But I will say that something I notice more often than not with clients is a lack of awareness around portion sizes, which can lead to major diet sabotage. They could go to all the trouble of choosing reasonable better-for-you foods, only to be thwarted by a general tendency to overeat. It doesn’t help that the food environment has been super-sized in the past 20 years.

For example, someone may think they’re making a smart choice by ordering shrimp linguini when dining out, only to end up racking up 1200 calories or more in a single sitting because of the sheer volume of food, or because they don’t realize it’s in a cream sauce whose saturated fat calories add up fast. And if an appetizer, glass of wine or dessert are involved, forget it – they could easily eat more than a day’s share in one meal.

Whether eating out or dining in, I recommend clients make a conscious choice to decide how much they will eat, before taking the first bite, and to separate that portion onto a ‘share plate’ (smaller plate). When the portion has been eaten, that’s it; I advise them to take going back for more out of the equation – when it’s not even an option, it’s much easier to resist. At home, clients can use their smaller plates to serve themselves. When eating out, they can ask for a ‘share plate’ and either let the remainder of the entrée dish make the rounds for others to try or to go into a take-away bag. Another option to provide to clients is to start with a salad and share an entrée with a friend (which can be a money-saving tactic, too).


Bell Institute: What recommendations do you have for incorporating more exercise into the busy lives of clients trying to manage their weight?

Moon: I have four recommendations for the busy client (which is all of them), and here’s a little fair warning: my first tip may seem a little hokey to some, the second is purely practical, the third requires some (though minimal) effort, and the fourth is more of a tough love bit o’ advice. Of course, the usefulness of these tips will vary depending on what you, the health care professional, knows will resonate for your clients.

  1. Stretch and give thanks. Start your day with some morning yoga. I am not talking about going to a 90-minute class at 6 a.m. in the morning. I am talking about rolling out of bed, going through some basic stretches, and giving thanks that your body can move to the extent that it can. The logic behind this is that it takes next to no time, and it means starting your day with a reminder to be aware of and to take care of your body in addition to the other 17,000 things on your to-do list.
  2. Super practical. Walk as much as you can. Walk to the break room for tea. Walk to the printer each and every time you print something. Walk to the mail room to drop off your mail. Walk outside for 10 minutes after you’ve finished eating lunch. Walk up any stairs that come your way. Walk to talk to a coworker. You get the idea.
  3. Decide how to spend your spare 5 minutes. Basic exercises require no equipment and not very much time. Think: jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups. What they do require is that you decide to spend 5-10 minutes doing them. It could be during a TV commercial, between all-day meetings and client dinners when you’re on a business trip, or before you have to go pick up the kids.
  4. Tough love (that works). No time for exercise? Make time. Taking care of your health is supremely important, and at some point you may need to reprioritize your daily activities to make room for being physically active. Personally, I like finding physical activities that are also fun, so that it’s not just about sweating, but also about gaining a new skill and having fun with a hobby. After all, time flies when you’re having fun and all that.

1 Comment

  1. Q&A on Weight Management, Part II | everyday healthy eating

    February 25, 2013 at 6:18 am

    […] areas many clients struggle with in their diets – snacking and eating breakfast daily. (In the first post, I answered questions about weight loss struggles, how to stay on track, and exercise for a busy […]

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