Weight-Loss Tools Should Work For You

Posted: January 2, 2013

By The Book

Right on schedule, many of us have recently resolved to improve our eating habits.
Whether the goal is weight loss or better health overall, you’re likely to be more successful if you take advantage of the many tools available: This can include anything from specialty cookbooks to online health resources.
If you can believe the flurry of weight loss advice swirling around this time of year, you’ll learn that tracking calories is one worthwhile step toward reducing them.
In fact, a study at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found that, the more people kept records of what they ate, the more weight was lost, according to the center’s Dr. Jack Hollis.
“It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories,” he said.
This can serve as a motivational tool, but part of the benefit is also educational. For instance, I virtuously ate a bran muffin for years while others in the newsroom were eating fresh donuts every Friday, only to find out that I was taking in five times the calories they were. The nutrition in my muffin was a little better, but not much.
It can be a revelation to see how far off you are on some of your beliefs about calories. You may be as shocked as I was, once calorie counters became widely available, to see the calories in a handful of trail mix or peanuts. And once you know, you can take steps to avoid accidental overeating.
Many people use the website — there’s also a phone and tablet app — myfitnesspal.com, and it’s a good one. Tools available include discussions, calorie counts for restaurant and fast food meals, ways to track exercise and motivational material.
Organizers of the website and app have teamed up with makers of the digital pedometer, “fitbit,” to combine daily calorie intake with daily exercise — you can upload directly from the pedometer or type in your amount. This offers a way to make intelligent decisions about intake, and how it relates to expending calories.
For a different approach that’s a little quirky, and admittedly not for everyone: I visit cronometer.com (which is also available as an app).
Calories aren’t the only issue with the food we eat: The modern diet is lacking in a lot of ways. When you track your food with the cronometer (“cron” stands for calorie reduction with optimal nutrition), you find out everything about the food you’ve eaten — vitamins, minerals, lipids — and you can also see what you’re lacking.
Best of all, it details how your choices stack up as you go through the day. For instance, your breakfast might supply only 12 percent of your daily nutritional requirements, but use up 50 percent of your allotted calories. Used consistently, you will tend to make better-balanced choices.
Both the “Fitness Pal” and “Cronometer” are free. Upgraded versions offer added features.
What types of resources have you found to be beneficial to your journey to better health?
Theresa Curry blogs about food, health and gardens at www.gma85.com.

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