Weight Loss Program

Weight Loss Programs for Men

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

When it comes to weight loss, men don’t get much sympathy from women. They can lose weight more quickly thanks to higher metabolisms and more muscle mass. They’re free of the scale-tipping effects of monthly hormone swings and pregnancy. They don’t tend to be emotional over-eaters. It’s no wonder promotional materials for diet programs feature women. The Jenny Craig website features 21 pages of success stories from women. From men: A grand total of 3 pages.

Maybe men just don’t need help with weight loss. Well, according to a November 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control, that’s simply not true. The CDC report shows that obesity rates for men are catching up to women and are in fact almost identical: 33.3% for men and 35.3% for women.

Men Don’t “Diet”

For better or worse, “diets” and women go hand-in-hand. Women focus on appearance and are conditioned from an early age to equate “thin” with “attractive”. Diet plans were designed to appeal to women, emphasizing salads, low-fat foods, and sugar-free sweets. Where’s the beef? Where’s the beer? In the experience of Mary Gregg RD, Director of Nutrition for NutriSystem, men traditionally viewed weight loss as a female concern, and felt embarrassed attending diet classes that were mostly women. Men need more calories and prefer different foods. Clearly programs set up for women were not attracting men.

Trying to lose weight? Start be adding exercise to your daily routine: 

- Get a treadmill and walk while you watch television.
- Get a recumbent bike and ride for 30 minutes after dinner every night.
- Set up a bench press in the garage a la Kevin Spacey in American Beauty (though that did not really end well if you watch the film).

What Men Want

Most weight-loss experts agree that men have different motivations for weight loss. Men aren’t as appearance-oriented as women, and take a lot longer to see the need to lose weight. Medical concerns, whether type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, or a heart attack, are great guy motivators. Another is fitness. Men will lose weight to get in shape, and they expect that exercise will be part of the program. In fact, they welcome exercise and do better with it.

Weight Watchers and NutriSystem for Men

Armed with more information about the diet divide, major diet programs have now launched men’s programs. Gregg reports that NutriSystem started looking at a men’s program 2 years ago. NutriSystem provides the actual food, delivered right to the client’s door. The meal plans are designed to be high fiber/low sugar. Clients are expected to add their own fresh vegetables, salads, and fruit to the NutriSystem entrée selections.

Weight Watchers has always welcomed men to meetings, and in March, the company announced an Internet-based program aimed at men. The program has features to track food intake and exercise, along with tips on workouts and food choices.

Online Diet Program + Overweight Male = A Great Fit

Online weight loss programs are capitalizing on the fact that, once they decide to tackle weight control, men tend to be more disciplined and goal-driven. Weight control is just another challenge. As Karen Miller-Kovach, MS, RD, of Weight Watchers points out in her book “She Loses, He Loses,” men’s approach to dieting is “just tell me what to do.” This definitely includes an exercise component. NutriSystem has an exercise DVD featuring NFL player Vaughn Hebron, while Weight Watchers offers workout videos that target specific muscle groups and fitness levels.

The most appealing part of all these online plans for men is the flexibility. Men can use the Internet components and exercise videos at their convenience, and pick foods that they like.


These programs can produce significant weight loss results. But can the guys keep it off? Miller-Kovach notes that most men don’t have much basic knowledge about food and nutrition, and tend to depend on one person (i.e., spouse) for support and feedback in their weight-loss efforts. What about men who don’t have that one person? Michelle Berry, MA, LPC, of Denver, CO., spent over a decade as a nutrition therapist in a weight-loss clinic.  She points out that men have trouble with the long-term lifestyle changes needed to maintain weight loss. Traveling, dining out, and cooking all present problems after the structured diet program ends.


The growth of men’s diet programs is a welcome development. Guys can improve fitness and health, while eating foods they enjoy in portions that are satisfying. And thanks to the Internet, they can choose to lose on their own schedule from the comfort of home. No more dainty salads and diet soda lunches: Bring on the real food.



1 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/07newsreleases/obesity.htm.
2 Gorin A.A., et al. PrevMed 2004 Sep;39(3):612-6.
3 M Kiernan et al. Obesity Res 2001(9):770-777.

*This article is intended for general information purposes only, is not individual-specific, nor is it intended to replace the advice of your healthcare team.

Weight Loss Program, Part 4: Changing Eating Behavior & Setting Goals - Activities

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

ACTIVITY 1: Keep a food diary

You're going to begin keeping a food diary as your first of two exercises for Part Four. You will track the amount of food you eat, your hunger level, your mood, and when and where you eat. You will also begin to analyze and record any patterns you see that are destructive eating behaviors. After you pinpoint some problems to work on based on your food diary findings, you will then go to Exercise 2 and begin to set some goals to correct the problem areas you identified.

Step 1 - Create or print a Food Diary Journal

You can keep your food diary in whatever form you'd like. You might wish to buy a journal or keep it on sheets of loose-leaf paper in a binder. You can also print the online food diary form at The Diet Channel.

Be sure your diary has columns for the following sections:

  • Food
  • Amount
  • Hunger
  • Mood
  • Location
  • Time

Also create a section to record your daily exercise and activity. In addition, leave extra space on the bottom or on the back to record any problems you notice and some goals to work on the next day.

Remember to evaluate your hunger by the following scale:

  • 0= Stuffed/uncomfortably full
  • 1=Comfortable
  • 2=Slight hunger
  • 3=Moderate hunger
  • 4=Significant hunger
  • 5=Famished

Step 2 - What are your biggest problem areas stopping your reach your goal?

After several days of keeping a diary, look at your diary and identify your biggest problem areas that keep you from reaching your goals. These problems are going to be very specific to you, but to get an idea of what to look for, you might note some of the following examples:

  • Skipping meals
  • Snacking too often between meals when you're not hungry
  • Eating unconsciously while you read or watch TV
  • Eating in response to moods or emotions - which moods and emotions?
  • Eating when you are still full from your last meal
  • Waiting until you are famished before you have a meal and then you overeat
  • Binging on certain foods when you can't eat "just one"
  • Drinking too little water
  • Falling short on your exercise goals this week
  • Eating too many sweet snacks and not enough nutritious snacks
  • Eating more around a certain friend than when you're alone or vice versa
  • Picking at food while you're cooking

Step 3 - Go to Exercise 2 and set some goals

After keeping a food diary for several days, you've likely pinpointed some of your biggest problem areas. Now, go to exercise two below and set some short-term goals to make lasting changes.

ACTIVITY 2: Setting long-term and short-term goals

You can begin setting some goals after you keep a food diary for at least five days, and you identify the major obstacles that keep you from achieving your long-term aspirations. Follow the "Steps to Establishing Diet, Exercise and Behavior Goals" in this week's lesson and answer the following questions:

Step 1 - List your long-term or outcome goals

Exercise -

Diet -


Step 2 - List the major problem areas that you identified in your food diary that keep you from achieving these goals











Step 3 - Choose 2-3 problem areas to begin focusing on

Now list some very specific, measurable and reasonable short-term goals that will help you to conquer each problem effectively.

Exercise problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Diet problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Behavior problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Step 4 - Remember to take it slowly, pace yourself, and expect less than perfection

Stick with your plan even if you slip up here and there. Behavior takes a long time to change, and you must relearn new behaviors over time.

Step 5 - Once you master one of your short-term goals, reward yourself - but not with food!

List some rewards you'd like that don't involve food:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

See your lesson for steps 6 and 7. You will have to complete these steps over time. You cannot take these steps this week. Remember that eventually you will need to reevaluate how you are doing with each goal, and you might need to find a new direction or new solutions if things aren't going well. If however, you've mastered your initial short-term goals with effective solutions, then you need to set some new short-term goals and restart the process (more on this in Part 8).

For Further Reading:

  • Ivillage.com - "Dear Diary"
    Learn more about the importance of keeping a food diary and what it can tell you.

  • NHLBI – Guide to Behavior Change
    This article underscores how to set goals and change behaviors that will help you to lose and maintain weight.
  • Weightfocus.com – Setting Reasonable Weight Loss Goals
    This article contains information on setting realistic expectations, and goals for weight loss. It also discusses the consequences of setting unrealistic goals, and how to change false

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Weight Loss Program, Part 7: Grocery Shopping & Modifying Recipes - Activities

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

ACTIVITY 1: Brand name nutritional comparisons of food in your grocery store

A specialty of the fun Nutrition Action Healthletter is to analyze food products for their nutritional content and to conduct brand-by-brand comparisons. This helps health-conscious consumers make wiser choices at their own supermarket. Some of the brand name products and foods the Nutrition Action Health Letter has analyzed so far are: yogurts, soups, luncheon meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, cereals, bread, margarines, frozen desserts, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and energy bars. Take a look at these fun graphs and reports and get an idea of the brand name products that are your most healthful choices. Then, add the most nutritious products to your grocery list to save yourself from the extra time it takes to read labels and comparison shop. The following articles have already done the label reading and comparison-shopping for you.

Web Site Activity: Click on the links below to see the nutrition information for different food products on a brand-by-brand basis.

  • Yogurt brand-name comparison
  • Soups brand-name comparison
  • Sandwich cold-cuts and spreads brand-name comparison
  • Bacon, hot dog and sausage brand-name comparison
  • Margarine and baked goods brand-name comparison
  • Hot cereals brand-name comparison
  • Breads brand-name comparison
  • Frozen desserts brand-name comparison
  • Fruits - A comparison of the most and least nutritious
  • Vegetables - A comparison of the most and least nutritious
  • Cheeses – Nutrition Information
  • Energy Bars – Brand Name Comparison

ACTIVITY 2: Modify a recipe to be more healthy

In this exercise, you'll experiment with one of your favorite, (but likely high-fat or less than nutritious) recipes. By using the recipe modification suggestions this week, you'll take your calorie-laden, decadent recipe and transform it into a lighter, more nutritious, and hopefully still delicious, treat.

Step 1

Search your recipe files for a favorite meal, snack or dessert.

Step 2

Use the recipe modification list in Part 7 to substitute the lower-fat and lower calorie ingredients for the higher-fat, higher-calorie ingredients in your recipe. Also, look for ways to make your recipe more nutritious, and not just lower fat, as well. For instance, could you substitute whole wheat flour for white flour?

Step 3

Create your lower-calorie, lower-fat version of the recipe. How does it taste? Is the flavor still good? How about the texture? Would you make it again? Which ingredients did you modify from the original recipe to make the new, lighter recipe?

Step 4

Be conscientious of recipe modifications each time you cook. Remember there are often numerous creative ways to trim down the fat and calorie content of a recipe and still add flavor. Also, be conscientious about how to increase the nutritiousness of a recipe. For example, try whole-wheat flour for ½ the amount of white flour required. There are many things you can do to make a recipe lighter and healthier.

For Further Reading: Nutrition Action Health Letter
The multiple articles below offer guidelines and advice for making healthier choices in various ethnic restaurants. Click on your favorites to find out more.

  • 50's Restaurant Food (Comfort Food)
  • Greek Food
  • Breakfast Foods
  • Mexican Food
  • Italian Food
  • Chinese Food
  • Nutrition Action Health Letter – Fast Food Follow-Up: What's Left to Eat
  • How to make the healthiest choices in fast food restaurants. Includes a chart with nutritional information and the most nutritious choices from fast food establishments.
  • FDA - "The Food Label"
    This article has everything you want to know about food labels, ingredients and claims, from the creators of it all - The Food and Drug Administration.

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8 Week Weight Loss Program Guidelines

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Guidelines for successfully completing our 8 week weight loss program

Hello, and welcome to The Diet Channel's exclusive online Weight Loss Program! For many, losing weight can be a lifelong battle. Learning to differentiate between successful weight loss strategies and fads and scams can be a tricky process. This course is ideal not only for those tackling the battle of the bulge for the first time, but also for those who have tried popular diets, diet pills and other strategies that may shed weight quickly, but generally do not lead to permanent results. You will learn the best strategies for permanent, healthy weight loss based on the latest scientific evidence. You will learn how to plan healthy meals, how to jumpstart your metabolism, and how to pinpoint and change behaviors that lead to overeating. Get ready to be motivated!

About the 8 week program's lead nutritionist

This 8 week diet challenge was written by Kathy Goodwin, RD, a registered dietitian with 10 years of experience working with clients on most aspects of diet and health. Kathy belongs to The American Dietetic Association and one of its many specialty groups - Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutritionists (SCAN). Members of SCAN specialize in nutrition areas including weight loss, sports nutrition, eating disorders, and diet and cardiovascular disease. Kathy is also involved in nutrition as it relates to overall wellness and disease prevention. By far, her favorite area is weight loss, because it is a huge challenge for so many. She has incorporated into this course the latest research about what it takes to lose weight, and most importantly, keep it off.

How we can work together so you meet your weight-loss goals

It is our goal at The Diet Channel to provide you with the best information possible in order to help you achieve your goals. However, we can do this only by providing you with the most ethical, scientifically based, and timely information available in a way that you can understand. We can't put the principles you learn into practice or put in the required time and effort to attain your goals. That rests on you. This can be a time-intensive program if you thoroughly complete each week's reading, activities and exercises, and recommended articles. However, we guarantee you that the more thought, time, and effort you put into each assignment, the more results you will get. Like many other things in life, in this program and with weight loss in general, you will get out of it what you put into it.

For each week's topic:

  1. First complete the topic readings in your text and on this website.
  2. Then complete the exercises and activities.
  3. Next, review the recommended articles.
  4. Do not skip any section or activity -- each has a specific role in your learning
  5. Pace yourself. Be sure that you devote at least a week to covering each of the 8 topics (this means a minimum of two months to finish the whole program). If needed, take more time to be sure you have absorbed the concepts taught each week before moving on to the next week.
  • We recommend you purchase the book Dieting For Dummies as an accompaniment to this program. Each week different chapters from this text will be assigned in order to enhance your learning of the weekly topics.
  • Always consult your physician before beginning a weight loss program.
  • If you need more assistance, contact the Clinical Nutrition Department of your local hospital to speak to a Registered Dietitian. You may also call the American Dietetic Association's Consumer Nutrition Hotline at 800/366-1655. Due to the volume of e-mail we receive, we regret we will be unable to address individual questions and issues.
  • Remember that those who are most successful at permanent weight loss take pounds off slowly, are willing to work hard, have given up on the "quick fixes", and are willing to find new solutions and not give up when setbacks and plateaus set in.

Best of luck on your new beginning to self-discovery and better health!!!

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Weight Loss Program, Part 8: Maintaining Weight Loss - The Long Term Plan - Activities

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

ACTIVITY 1: Find a source of support and motivation

One of the biggest components in losing weight permanently is getting support from others, and staying active in a structured program. Remember that the end of this program is not the end of all the great progress you've made. However, if you fail to continue to work at your program, then you won't achieve the results you desire. Many times, when you leave a structured program such as this one, you can easily slip into old habits. Your focus now is to find a new source of group support and motivation that keeps you focused on your goals. It might simply be making a pact with a friend to exercise together four days a week and to be one another's motivator and health companion. On the other hand, you might wish to explore a more structured group program in your area where the focus is on achieving healthy weight loss or maintaining lost weight. Explore the following Web sites, get to know what their group programs are all about, and decide if they're for you. If you like what you see, contact a group in your area and become involved. If you're not happy with the programs below, call your local hospital or clinic to see if they offer group weight loss programs conducted by a registered dietitian. No matter what your choice, create a source of support and structure for yourself that keeps you focused on your goals.


Weight loss suppport groups:

  • Weight Watchers:
    Find a group near you.
  • Take Off Pounds Sensibly
    Find a group near you:
    What it's all about:
  • Overeaters Anonymous
    Find a group near you:
    What it's all about:
  • HUGS International
    Find a group near you:
    What it's all about:
  • Weigh Down Workshop
    (Note: This is a bible-based weight loss program)
    To find a group near you:
    or Call: 800-844-5208

ACTIVITY 2: Re-evaluate short-term goals

In Part Four, you began to create short-term goals for yourself. You created solutions to tackle some of your more pressing exercise, diet and behavior obstacles. If you remember from Part Four, there are 7 steps involved in goal setting. However, you were only asked to complete steps 1-5. This is because steps 6 and 7 can only be completed once you've given your initial goals and solutions some time to take effect. Now that some time has passed, let's review steps 6 and 7 of goal setting:

6) Monitor your progress at regular points in time. Ask yourself how far you've come towards accomplishing your initial short-term goals. After things are going well, say in a month, you might not have to put as much effort into the goals you selected. If things aren't going well, you might need to rethink the strategies you are using and try something different.

7) Set new short-term goals. When you feel you've mastered the previous short-term goals you set for yourself, create some new ones. Remember this is a journey, not a destination. Accomplishing any goal, whether it's weight loss or anything else in life, requires a lifelong commitment. You will always have to set new goals and work on new areas even when you accomplish your big long-term goals. For instance, after you lose the 60 pounds, what goals do you have to work on to maintain your weight? Plenty!

Now is the time to tackle steps 6 and 7. Take the following steps:

  1. Review your initial list of short-term goals. Ask yourself if you've done well in tackling these, and if the strategies you laid out to overcome these obstacles have worked well for you. Can you easily overcome these obstacles now with the strategies you've put into place? Have you mastered these initial problems and obstacles? If your answer is yes, it's time to move on to #3 and create some new goals. If your answer is no, move on to #2.

  2. If you're still having a tough time tackling your initial short-term goals, it's probably time to take a look at some of the strategies you've laid out to accomplish these goals. Perhaps these aren't the best strategies for you. What strategies are and aren't working? Try to come up with some new ways to approach your goals, and some new strategies that may be more realistic or fit into your lifestyle better. Continue to work on these initial goals you've set for yourself with the new strategies you create and give it another month. If at that time you feel you've mastered your initial goals, then move on to #3. If not, it's time to rethink your strategies again.
  3. Congratulations at mastering your initial short-term goals! As you're well aware, the process does not end here! Now it's time to review your food and activity diary to find some new areas where you need to focus your attention. Go back through steps 1-5 in goal creating in Part 4, or complete the self-assessment exercise in Part 4. Here, you'll identify some new obstacles that may be keeping you from achieving your long-term goals, and you'll create some new solutions to overcome them. Remember to go back to steps 6 and 7 of goal creating in a month or so and assess where you're at. You'll continue to repeat this process for as long as it's necessary (and behavior change takes a long, long time!)

For Further Reading:

  • Colorado State University - "Make Long-Term Weight Management Your Goal This Year"
    Helpful tips, which, when put into practice, ensure successful long-term weight-loss maintenance.

  • Doctor's Guide to Medical News - "Trigger Prompts Obese to Become Highly Successful at Weight-Loss"
    A background on the weight-loss methods used by the participants in The National Weight Control Registry. These people are all true success stories at losing and maintaining their weight. Learn more about their successful strategies that have freed them from obesity for years.
  • thedietchannel.com - "Over 600 Links to Reliable Nutrition Information on the Net"
    Trusting the content of information on the internet is difficult. When maintaining or losing weight, you need reliable outside sources to help you in your quest. This site lists more than 600 links to reliable diet, weight loss, and nutrition articles screened by a registered dietitian for accurate and reliable content.

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Weight Loss Program, Part 8: Maintaining Weight Loss - The Long Term Plan - Continued

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Dependable Weight Loss Resources

Read the following pages/chapters in your text, Dieting For Dummies this week: Chapter 13, pages 155-161, Appendix A, pages 287-294

Part 8 continued......

Dependable weight loss resources

When it comes to weight loss, every corner has a snake oil salesman, and unfortunately, a sucker is born every minute to keep his pocketbook filled. Below are several dependable and knowledgeable sources of weight loss information whose material and advice you don't have to question.

Weight loss organizations you can depend on

  • The American Dietetic Association
    216 W. Jackson Blvd.
    Chicago, IL 60606-6995

  • The American Council on Exercise
    5820 Oberlin Drive, Suite 102
    San Diego, CA 92121
  • The American Heart Association
    7272 Greenville Avenue
    Dallas, TX 75231-45961
  • Weight Control Information Network National Institutes of Health
    1 Win Way
    Bethesda, MD 20892-3665
  • American College of Sports Medicine
    P.O. Box 1440
    Indianapolis, IN 46206-14401
  • American Institute for Cancer Research
    1759 R Street NW
    Washington, D.C. 20009
  • Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists
    90 S. Cascade Avenue, Suite 1230
    Colorado Springs, CO 80903
  • Shape Up America
    6707 Democracy Blvd, Suite 306
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

Web sites for weight loss and fitness information

  • Cyberdiet

  • Tufts University Nutrition Navigator
  • Weight Control Information Network
  • Fat City
  • American Dietetic Association
  • Healthy Weight Network
  • Shape Up America
  • Calorie Control Council
  • The Diet Channel
  • Nutrition Action Health Letter
  • Mayo Clinic Nutrition Center
  • American Council on Exercise

Weight loss and exercise books

  • Strong Women Stay Slim, by Miriam Nelson, Ph.D.

  • The Diet-Free Solution, by Laurel Mellin
  • Thin for Life, by Anne Fletcher
  • Eating Thin for Life, by Anne Fletcher
  • Thin for Life Daybook, by Anne Fletcher
  • Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole
  • The Weigh Down Workshop, by Gwen Shamblin
  • Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating, by Geneen Roth
  • Dieting for Dummies, by Jane Kirby
  • Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell, by Debra Waterhouse
  • Smart Eating, Choosing Wisely, Living Lean, by Covert Bailey
  • Smart Exercise, by Covert Bailey
  • Make the Connection, by Oprah Winfrey and Bob Greene
  • ACSM Fitness Book, by The American College of Sports Medicine

Healthy eating cookbooks

  • Prevention's The Healthy Cook, by Prevention Magazine Health Books

  • Cooking Light Five Star Recipes, by Cooking Light Magazine
  • Cooking Light Annual Recipes, by Cooking Light Magazine
  • Cooking Light, Light and Easy Cookbook, by Cooking Light Magazine
  • Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites
  • The Phytopia Cookbook, by Barbara Gollman and Kim Pierce
  • The Mayo Clinic Williams Sonoma Cookbook
  • American Heart Association Around The World Cookbook
  • American Heart Association Quick and Easy Cookbook
  • The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 25th Anniversary
  • Healthy Homestyle Desserts, by Evelyn Tribole
  • Healthy Homestyle Cooking, by Evelyn Tribole

Healthy eating newsletters

  • Consumer Reports on Health
    Box 52148
    Boulder, CO 80322

  • Mayo Clinic Health Letter
    Subscription Services
    P.O. Box 53889
    Boulder, CO 80322-3889
  • Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter
    P.O. Box 57857
    Boulder, CO 80322-7857
  • University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter
    Health Letter Associates
    P.O. Box 420235
    Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235
  • Nutrition Action Health Letter
    Center for Science in the Public Interest
    Suite 300
    Washington, D.C. 20009
  • Nutrition Forum
    P.O. Box 1747
    Allentown, PA 18105

Healthy eating online recipes

  • Mayo Clinic's Virtual Cookbook

  • Cooking Light Recipe Finder
  • Fat Free

Healthy eating magazines

  • Shape

  • Eating Well
  • Cooking Light
  • Men's Fitness
  • Living Fit

Next: Activities for Part 8

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Weight Loss Program, Part 7: Grocery Shopping & Modifying Recipes - Continued

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Dining Out, Label Reading

Read the following pages/chapters in your text, Dieting For Dummies this week: Chapters 14-16, pages 165-197, Chapter 24, pages 263-286

Part 7 continued.......

Reading food labels

In 1994, The Food and Drug Administration mandated that all food manufacturers must include nutrition labeling information on their products. They made this ruling to allow consumers to make more health-conscious choices at the supermarket. However, like many other things the government does, food labels can be tricky and difficult to understand. Refer to the label posted here, and let's review all of the information that you are likely to find listed:

Serving size/Servings per container - Pay very close attention to what the manufacturer calls "one serving." The nutrition information you see listed is based on a serving size, not the whole container. If the serving size is ½ cup, and you eat a whole cup, then the number of calories, fat, and everything else listed is doubled.

Total calories - Again, this number depends on the calories you will get in one serving, not the whole container. The total calories per serving come from the total amount of carbohydrate and/or protein and/or fat in the product. You can also determine total calories in the following way:

(Grams of fat x 9) + (Grams of carbohydrate x 4) + (Grams of protein x 4) = total calories.

Calories from fat - The number of total calories that come from fat. In our label's case, 30 out of 90 calories per serving come from fat. You can calculate the percentage of calories from fat by dividing total calories by fat calories. In this product's case it's about 33% of calories from fat (90/30). Use this as a guideline only. Not everything that you eat must have 30% or fewer calories from fat. You should balance higher fat foods with lower fat foods throughout the day in order to achieve an approximate daily intake of 30% or less calories from fat.

Total fat - Total fat is listed in grams. Total fat equals: (Grams of saturated fat + grams of polyunsaturated fat + grams of monounsaturated fat)

Fat has 9 calories per gram. You can always determine fat calories by multiplying grams of fat x 9. If you follow an 1800-calorie diet, and you want 30% or fewer calories from fat, then you should take in no more than 540 calories (1800 x 30%) from fat each day. To determine the grams, divide the fat calories by 9. This equals 60 grams of fat (540/9) per day or less.

Oranges, grapefruit, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, guava, kiwi, tangerines, apricots

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard), green peppers, red peppers

Another general hint - the deeper the color, especially green, yellow and orange, the more nutritious.

Saturated fat - The label also lists this in grams per serving. Listing the amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats a product contains is not required, although some manufacturers voluntarily list these values also. Keep your saturated fat intake to less than 1/3 of your total fat intake. If you limit fat to 60 grams a day, you want no more than 20 grams of it to come from saturated fat. The other 40 grams should optimally come from 30 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 10 grams of polyunsaturated fat. The higher the percentage from monounsaturates and the lower the percentage from saturates, the better.

Cholesterol - Cholesterol is listed in another unit of measurement called milligrams. Although cholesterol alone in food is not a big culprit in raising cholesterol levels in the body, you should still limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) daily.

Sodium - Sodium is also listed in milligrams. The jury is still out on whether a high-sodium diet is harmful to your health (for those with normal blood pressure), but you should probably limit it anyway until the information becomes clearer. Strive to keep your sodium intake each day to less than 2,400 milligrams, especially if you already have high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, edema or fluid retention problems.

Total carbohydrate - The value listed for total carbohydrate equals: (grams of sugar + grams of fiber + grams of complex carbohydrate (usually not listed). For example, the label states that each serving has 13 grams of carbohydrate. Six of the 13 grams come from the fiber and sugar (3 grams each respectively) in the product. The other 7 grams are from complex carbohydrates.

Dietary fiber - The more the product has, the better. This is especially true for dieters since fiber can keep you feeling full. Strive for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day.

Sugars - Sugars, which are listed in grams, include naturally present sugars, such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruits, and those added to foods, such as table sugar, corn syrup, honey, and dextrose. To get an idea of how much sugar a product contains, remember that a sugar packet is four grams of sugar. Typically, anything on a list of ingredients that ends in "ose" is a sugar source.

Protein - Protein is also listed in grams. The recommended daily allowance for protein is .8 grams per kilogram (kilograms = pounds/2.2). On average, most women need 50-60 grams of protein a day, and men should have 60-70 grams a day. In America, we eat more than enough protein. Most estimates say we actually take in more than twice the recommended amount. Excess protein in the diet above and beyond your daily calorie needs simply means excess calories that get stored as fat.

Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron - These are all important vitamins and minerals, so the more a product contains, the better. Next to these values percentages are listed. These refer to the percent daily value of the vitamin or mineral you get in one serving of the product. If the food provides less than 10% of the daily value for the nutrient, then it is not a good source of that nutrient.

Percent Daily Values - Also known as daily reference values, they are simply recommended guidelines to follow for an average diet. The values are based on the assumption that the average person takes in about 2,000 calories a day. However, your specific daily values can and probably do vary from these figures. Here's what the listed recommended daily values are for someone eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet:

Total fat - Daily value is less than 65 grams a day (or less than 30% of calories)

Saturated fat - Daily value is less than 20 grams a day (or less than 1/3 of total fat intake)

Cholesterol - Daily value is less than 300 milligrams a day

Total carbohydrate - Daily value is 300 grams (or 60% of total calories)

Fiber - Daily value is 25 grams

Sodium - Daily value is 2,400 milligrams
If you refer to the label, next to the total fat content, it states that the percent daily value is 5%. The product provides 3 grams of fat per serving and the daily value recommendation for fat is 65 grams or less. Therefore, you are getting 5% of the daily value for fat in one serving of this product (3 divided by 65 = about 5%). The same mathematics apply when you see percent daily values listed for the other nutrients.

Ingredients. Food ingredients appear in the order of greatest quantity to smallest quantity. You should always take a good look at the food's primary sources of calories. For example, if you see lard or sugar as the first ingredients, chances are the product is probably not very healthy. On the other hand, whole-wheat flour or skim milk listed as the first ingredients may indicate a healthier choice.

More label terminology. The FDA also regulates the following terms. By law if you see these terms listed on a food label, the product must comply with the following criteria:

Free. This term means that a product contains no amount of, or only trivial amounts of, one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories. For example, "calorie-free" means fewer than five calories per serving, and "sugar-free" and "fat-free" both mean less than 0.5 g per serving.

What does "low" mean on a food label?

Low-fat: 3 g or less per serving
Low-saturated fat: 1 g or less per serving
Low-sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
Very low sodium: 35 mg or less per serving
Low-cholesterol: 20 mg of cholesterol or less and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving
Low-calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
Lean and extra lean. These terms describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood, and game meats.
Lean: less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving.
Extra lean: less than 5 g fat, less than 2 g saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving.
High. This term indicates the food contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient per serving.
Good source. This term means that one serving of a food contains 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
Reduced. At least 25% less of a particular nutrient than what you would find in the normal product. For instance, a reduced sodium soup would contain 25% less sodium than the regular soup.
Light. This expression can mean two things:

Contains one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the usual food product. But, if the food derives 50 percent or more of its calories from fat, the food must contain 50 percent less fat.

The sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has 50 percent less salt.

Note: Be wary of certain foods such as "light" olive oil as this simply refers to its color, not to a reduced calorie or fat content.

Dining out - what you can choose when dieting

Eating out can pose a special problem for dieters. High-calorie menu choices can be tempting, portion sizes enormous, and the way the food is prepared is often a mystery. Also, since dining out costs more than eating in, you have the constant temptation to clean your plate in order to feel you get your money's worth. Learning to dine out and still meet your diet goals is critical since dining out of the house is becoming more and more the norm. The following pointers will keep you on track when you eat away from home.

1.   Treat yourself but make food and exercise adjustments

Sometimes dining out can be such a special treat that you don't want to have to worry so much about following your diet for that one meal. If this is the case, be sure to really lighten up earlier in the day or throughout the week, and increase your exercise for the week as well. Creating a balance is important, and being able to fit in treats and special occasions is what it's all about.

2.   Make your eating out selections before your go

Plan ahead - try to have an idea of what's on the menu beforehand. Make your selections before you go. Call ahead and ask the staff how they prepare certain dishes, and whether they honor special requests.

Decide ahead of time what you will and will not have. For instance, if you really want a glass of wine with your dinner, then choose to forego an appetizer or dessert or have only ¾ of your entree. Compromise.

3.   Search for filling, low calorie options as appetizers

Start with a broth-based soup. Soup can really be very filling, and it is generally very low in calories. Spicy foods can also be very filling and trigger satisfaction before non-spicy foods will.

4.   Don't arrive starving hungry - all the planning will go out the window

Don't go to dinner famished. You will be too tempted to forego the way you planned to eat. Have a salad or some high fiber vegetable sticks before you leave.

5.   Be mindful of what a real portion size is, and not a restaurant portion

Mind your portions. Most dining establishments do not serve normal portion sizes. Pay attention to your hunger. Order what you want, but don't gorge yourself. Stop eating when you feel satisfied and comfortable. Ask for a take-home bag for the leftovers.

6.   Eating out is about more than the food

You also pay for someone to clean up after you, serve you, prepare your meal, and provide a pleasant atmosphere. Really enjoy the experience itself, and do not feel that you waste your money if you do not clean your plate or indulge in the free bread or tortilla chips.

7.   Likely high fat/high calorie menu items

Some words or items on a menu are signals that a food is likely high in fat and/or calories such as: fried, alfredo, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, buttery, rich, au gratin, hollandaise, carbonara, peanut sauce, cheesy, bacon, prime rib, stuffed, parmigiana, feast, combo, grande, jumbo, king size, super size, supreme, buffet. If you dine out infrequently, or if your diet is moderately low in fat as a rule, then you can order these things on occasion. In general, if you're going to order a high-calorie, high-fat entree, try to eat only half. Also order a healthy accompaniment as well, such as a vegetable salad with a small amount of oil and vinegar dressing or low-fat dressing.

8.   Likely lighter/low calorie menu items

Some words, on the other hand, connote lower-calorie, lighter selections: steamed, baked, grilled, broiled, poached, fresh, kiddie, petite, appetizer, small, lunch portion, healthy, vegetarian, whole grain, roasted, marinara, wine sauce, broth

9.   Take care when food has sauces/dressings

Use the fork-dip method with sauces and salad dressings. Order your sauces and dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the sauce and then spear your vegetables or the item that goes with the sauce. This way, you still get the flavor of the sauce, but you cut down tremendously on the amount you use.

Next: Activities for Part 7

Back to Weight Loss Program Homepage

Weight Loss Program, Part 6: Evaluating Current Weight Loss Methods - Continued

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Read the following pages/chapters in your text, Dieting For Dummies this week: Chapter 17-20, pages 201-247

Part Six, Weight Loss methods, continued

Currently available prescription diet medications

The FDA advises that you should have a BMI of at least 30 or more in order to take prescription weight loss medications. Since these medications have potential side effects, your potential health risks due to obesity need to outweigh the potential health risks of the side effects of the medications. These drugs are not to be taken by those with only a few pounds to lose. Most of these medications lose their effectiveness over time, so you must also follow a good diet and exercise program and learn behavior modification techniques while taking them.

1. Orlistat (trade name Xenical)

This drug reduces the amount of fat that the body absorbs by 30 percent. If you don't absorb fat, it doesn't provide any calories. The problem with fat not being absorbed, however, is that it must exit elsewhere. That's where the potential side effects of this medication come in - diarrhea and decreased absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Studies show that those taking orlistat can lose about 10 percent of their initial weight during the course of a year. It's not nirvana, but it can help in losing modest amounts of weight for those who qualify.

2. Sibutramine (trade name Meridia)

Sibutramine alters the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin. It promotes reduced appetite and increased feelings of fullness. Studies show an average weight loss of about 10 percent of starting weight with this medication. It's no panacea, but it can help support weight loss on a good diet and exercise program. It can also help curb bothersome cravings. Common side effects of sibutramine are constipation, dry mouth, headache, and insomnia.

3. Phentermine/Mazindol/ Phendimetrazine

These medications are appetite suppressants that also alter levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because these medications are similar chemically to amphetamines, they have the potential for psychological dependency and should be used with caution. You might recall phentermine as the first half of the phen-fen combination. Many news reports mistakenly report that phen-fen has been taken off the market. What they really mean to say is that fenfluramine, (also known as pondimin or redux) the "fen" part of the drug combination, has been taken off the market. Phentermine, however, is still alive and well. According to studies, the best you can expect with these medications is a 5-15% weight loss from your original weight. Common side effects include nervousness, irritability, insomnia, dry mouth, and increased blood pressure.

4. Anti-depressants/Prozac

Some anti-depressant medications, particularly prozac, have been studied for their appetite suppressing effects. This is because these medications promote increased circulation of serotonin in the brain, which can cause increased feelings of fullness. The FDA has not approved the use of these medications specifically for weight loss. Still, some studies show that patients taking these anti-depressants experience modest amounts of weight loss for up to 6 months. Common side effects of prozac include drowsiness, nausea, restlessness, and tremors.

For additional information on drugs for obesity see the following article from TheDietChannel: Overview of Drugs & Surgeries for Treating Obesity.

Herbal and non-prescription weight loss preparations

Be aware of the following information about herbal preparations and nutritional supplements little known to the consumer:

  • Unlike prescription medications, neither the Food and Drug Administration nor any other governing body oversees the manufacturing of these products. The supplement manufacturers currently have the advantage - their products don't have to be tested for their safety, quality, effectiveness, or appropriate dosage. The public tends to believe that over-the-counter herbal products and nutrition supplements have been researched, tested, and inspected.

  • Many times, what the manufacturer claims is in the product is not actually present in the quantities labeled.
  • Manufacturers do not have to fund studies to prove the effectiveness, side effects, or appropriate dosage of these products as manufacturers of medications do. Since studies can cost millions of dollars, and studies on “nutritional supplements” are not legally required, most manufacturers, for financial reasons, choose not to do studies. Those that do choose to conduct research, generally do "in-house" studies, which are not reliable. Independent organizations, not product manufacturers with a vested interest in the product, should conduct research on a product, in order for research to be valid. Many manufacturers rely on anecdotes from users who claim the product works. Anecdotes are not valid research. The manufacturers fail to tell you about any negative customer testimonials associated with the product or any potential side effects. They also fail to research the reason behind how the product works if it does appear to work or makes you feel better – many times the product “working” is due to significant pharmacological and physiological actions in the body which produce terrible long-term side effects. Many times, what makes us feel better (or in this case, lose weight) can take a terrible toll on the body in other ways (consider the "all natural" marijuana, and cocaine). Natural does not necessarily equal safe and harmless.
  • You can't tell if one brand is superior to another unless studies are done to compare each product's effectiveness. Expensive brands do not guarantee quality, but they do fatten pocketbooks.
  • Manufacturers can make numerous claims for what these products can do, even if research has never been done to substantiate the claim. Because various claims are legal to make, many manufacturers do make outrageous claims.
  • The salespeople who promote these products generally have little to no medical or nutritional background, and cannot and do not offer sound advice about how the product works or its potential side effects.
  • Due to strong public interest in natural remedies and herbs, we see more and more research done on these products, which is a very good thing. Many products show quite promising effects. On the other hand, many appear to be simply expensive, useless, and overly hyped. Of course, without the proper research done, you can't know the difference.

The following list describes some of the most common ingredients in many of today's marketed weight loss supplements:

  • Ephedra (Ma Huang)
    The active ingredient in ephedra (also known as ma huang) is ephedrine, which is structurally similar to amphetamines. Ephedra has been linked to hundreds of incidents, including high blood pressure, abnormalities in heart rhythms, seizures, heart attacks, and even death. Some states have laws that ban the sale of ephedra because of its demonstrated serious side effects. Ephedra is in products such as metabolife and "herbal phen-fen."

  • St. John's Wort
    Here's an example of an herbal preparation that actually has been researched extensively overseas in independent studies and shows promise. Studies show that St. John's Wort can raise serotonin levels and treat mild depression. But, if you don't suffer from depression-related weight gain, significant food cravings, or an alteration in serotonin levels, St. John's Wort might not help in your weight loss quest. Thus far, there have been few reports of weight loss associated with St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort has shown some side effects such as light sensitivity. St. John's Wort is the accompaniment to ephedra in "herbal phen-fen" preparations. Due to the side effects of ephedra, however, don't take this combination.
  • Chromium Picolinate
    Despite the hype and claims, chromium picolinate is not a miracle pill that helps you lose weight, burn fat, and build muscle. It is a prime example of a supplement manufacturer extrapolating false theories from poorly done research and turning it into a weight loss panacea. Some flawed studies done in the 1990's suggested that chromium might help build muscle mass. From this research, the manufacturers extended the list of claims for what this supplement could do from metabolic rate increases to weight loss and beyond. This old research has since been shown to be inaccurate by better, more extensive studies. In order to put an end to the false claims touted by chromium picolinate manufacturers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped in. The FTC ruled that companies that distribute chromium picolinate do not have sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate that chromium picolinate could increase metabolic rate, promote weight loss, or reduce body fat.
  • Pyruvate
    The claims made about pyruvate run just as far and just as false as the claims for chromium picolinate. Again, it's a case of manufacturers' extrapolating from flawed research studies, inconclusive studies, or no studies at all to make a profit. No established connection exists between pyruvate and weight loss.
  • Guarana
    Despite being touted as a metabolism booster and fat burner, Guarana's active ingredient is caffeine, which can cause a temporary increase in metabolic rate. Save your money and have some coffee instead.
  • Phenylpropanolamine (PPA)
    Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) is the active ingredient found in over-the-counter weight loss pills like Dexatrim and Acutrim. PPA has been shown in studies to help increase weight loss but not significantly. In studies, PPA, along with diet and exercise increased weight loss by only an average of three pounds, compared to diet and exercise alone. Taking more than the recommended dosage has been linked to elevated blood pressure, stroke and heart palpitations. The FDA has now banned the use of PPA in over the counter remedies due to many potential documented serious side effects.
  • Herbal weight loss teas/Senna
    Herbal teas, many of which contain senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, chronic constipation, fainting, and even death if you take excessive amounts. These products that you can buy in health food stores and through mail-order catalogs, are used for weight loss based on some consumers' belief that increased bowel movements prevent absorption of calories, thus preventing weight gain. However, a special committee of the FDA concluded in 1995 that studies show that laxative-induced diarrhea does not significantly reduce absorption of calories. Laxatives do not work on the small intestine, where calories are absorbed, but rather on the colon, the lower end of the bowel.
  • Chitosan/Chitin
    Chitosan is a fiber that comes from the skeletons of crabs and other crustaceans. Lately, there have been a slew of claims that chitosan "traps fat" and can help you lose weight. Some research on mice shows that chitosan can be helpful in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels. But, it does not show that it reduced the weight of obese mice. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition printed an article that told of a well-controlled study of 34 overweight people. It showed no correlation between chitosan intake and weight loss. Thus, weight loss claims associated with this product appear to be unsubstantiated.

If a miracle pill existed, obesity rates would decline or at least remain the same. Keep this is mind next time you're tempted when you hear claims of easy, magic, quick weight loss. Be especially wary of the following claims for products:

  • Fat burner/Burn fat/Fat trapper/Fat Blocker
  • Quick and easy weight loss
  • Secret formula or ancient formula
  • Weight loss breakthrough or scientific breakthrough
  • Weight Loss without dieting or exercise
  • New revolutionary method
  • "Secret," "magical," or "synergistic" ingredients

For further information on what to look out for when buying supplements see the following article from TheDietChannel: How to Protect Yourself When Purchasing Supplements and Herbal Supplements: General Info.

Activity for Part Six

Based on the reading in Part Six, answer the following questions for yourself.

  • Which kinds of diet books or group diet programs have you tried in the past?

  • What were your successes or failures with the programs or books you've tried? Could you keep the weight off permanently?
  • What are some important questions you should ask before signing up for a group weight loss program?
  • Are you considering trying out any over the counter or herbal weight-loss remedies? What do you know about these products? Is the source of information about these products reliable? What should you look for to know if the information you are getting is reliable? What kinds of credentials should you look for in those dispensing nutrition or weight loss advice?

Be sure that you are continuing on with your food diary and physical exercise goals this week and every week!

For Further Reading:

  • The Diet Channel – The Atkins Diet – A Comprehensive Analysis
    An analysis of this very popular low carbohydrate diet and some of its shortcomings and potential health implications.

    Mayo Clinic - Herbal Diet Pills
    A look at some available over the counter diet pills, what you can expect from them, their long-term safety and side-effects.

  • The American Institute for Cancer Research - "Popular Diets versus Dietary Guidelines"
    The American Institute for Cancer Research evaluates four of the most popular diet books of the moment. They analyze whether, beneath the promises, these books offer advice about nutrition and weight loss that is based on sound science. They examine the potential effectiveness and possible health risks associated with each plan. Books analyzed: Dr. Atkins Diet, The New Beverly Hills Diet, Protein Power, and the Suzanne Somers Diet.
  • Nutrition Action Health Letter - "Carbophobia - Zoning Out On The New Diet Books"
    Provides a good analysis of the myths behind the low carbohydrate diet craze. This article contains interviews with many obesity experts who explain the flaws of these types of diets.
  • Nutrition Action Health Letter – Rating the Diet Books
    Reviews on the best and the worst of the latest diet books.
  • Quackwatch - "1999 Slim Chance Awards"
    Each year, The Healthy Weight Journal awards the worst weight-loss and diet scams of the year. Check out the winners for 1999.

Back to Weight Loss Program Homepage

Weight Loss Program, Part 5: Cravings, Overeating & The Brain Connection - Activities

  • Activity One:
    Determine your BMI, ideal weight and obesity healthrisks.

  • Activity Two:
    Determine if you are ready to lose weight and what works for you.

ACTIVITY 1: Determine your BMI, ideal weight and obesity health risks

The purpose of this web site activity is to determine many important things before you begin your weight loss quest such as:

  • What is BMI?
  • What is my realistic, achievable ideal weight?
  • What is my BMI?
  • Am I at high risk for health problems due to my weight?
  • Do I even need to lose weight?

Web Site Activities

  • The Diet Channel - "Are You Overweight? Find Your BMI"
    Click on this link and read this article at The Diet Channel. From this article, you will gain a better understanding of the term BMI and the implications it has on your health.
  • The Diet Channel - BMI Calculator
    Click on this link, insert your height and weight and calculate your BMI automatically.
  • Ideal Body Weight Calculator
    Determine your ideal body weight based on sex, height and weight. Keep in mind, however, that this weight does not necessarily represent the most realistic or healthy weight for you as an individual.

Based on the web site activities, answer the following questions for yourself.

  • Does your BMI suggest that your weight puts your health at risk?
  • What do you feel is an ideal and realistic weight for you based on all the calculations?

Self Assessment Exercises: Being ready to lose weight/determining what works for you

These exercises will help you through some of the most critical steps involved in permanent weight loss. First, you must to decide if now is the right time for you to lose weight. You also must identify and create solutions to the many issues you think will be your most difficult struggles. Furthermore, you need to pinpoint what works and doesn't work for you based on your eating habits, lifestyle, and past diets. Individualizing your plan is critical in designing methods that will work in your favor, so get to know what your struggles, strengths, and potential obstacles might be. No one plan will be successful for everyone - only you can determine what's right for you. Be sure you allow adequate time and thought for these exercises - they might be the most important ones you will do.

ACTIVITY 2: Are you ready to lose weight?

Permanent weight loss is not a light, easy or "quick fix" endeavor. It is extremely important to assess your current readiness to take on the challenges that permanent weight loss brings before you begin a program. Your mindset must be one of acceptance of gradual changes, willingness to work, willingness to determine your personal challenges and willingness to create goals and solutions. Read the following, and take the quiz to find out if you're ready.

First, read the following article to learn more about weight loss readiness:

The Learn Program – What is Weight Loss Readiness?

Next, take the following weight loss readiness quiz. Be sure to determine your score by clicking at the bottom of the page. Once you get your score, be sure to also read the interpretations to your answers.

Weight Watchers – Weight Loss Readiness Quiz

Spend some time reviewing the following questions:

  • What were your scores on the weight loss readiness test?
  • Do you think now is the right time for you?
  • Are you willing to reevaluate the things that indicate you might not be fully ready?
  • What pre-conceived thoughts about weight loss do you have that might result in just temporary solutions?
  • Are you willing to change your line of thinking about those things and accept the changes you must make to lose weight permanently?

What diet and exercise do not work for you?

Answer the following for yourself on a piece of paper:

What are my biggest weight loss challenges in the following areas? (Be very specific and list as many as you feel are relevant).

Diet Challenges:


**Now make a list of your personal diet challenges on a piece of paper**

Exercise Challenges:


  • I don't have enough time
  • It's too hard
  • I don't like to jog or bike or swim
  • I don't like the outfits and exercising in front of others because I feel fat

** Now make a list of your exercise challenges on a piece of paper**

Eating Behavior Challenges:


  • I overeat when I get home from work because I am stressed.
  • I pick at food while watching TV and don't realize how much I've eaten
  • I often eat until I'm stuffed
  • I can't eat small portions of certain foods, like chocolate

**Now make a list of your eating behavior challenges on a piece of paper**

What are some solutions to all the challenges you have listed?

Diet Solutions:


  • I will prepare a grocery list in advance and purchase more produce.
  • I will pack my lunch and add some vegetable sticks and a piece of fruit instead of getting fast food all the time.
    **Now make a list of your eating behavior challenges on a piece of paper**

Exercise Solutions:


  • I don't like most exercises on stationary equipment, but maybe I will try a weight lifting or beginning aerobics class at the gym. I've always given up on exercises that I don't enjoy, but I do enjoy group classes. I could also check out a Sierra Club in my area and try some hikes. That way, it will be more like socializing and enjoying the day instead of exercising.
  • Exercise doesn't have to be hard if I don't hold unrealistic expectations for myself, especially initially. It may be tough at first, but I'll take it slow and gradually I'll improve and will be very proud of my progress.

**Now make a list of solutions to your exercise challenges**

Eating Behavior Solutions:


  • I will try journaling each night as a way to identify my stress and some things that I can do to get a better grasp on it. Overeating only adds to my stress by making me feel worse about myself. I'll list some things I can do to get rid of stress that lead to me feeling better about myself instead of worse.

  • I'll identify certain foods which are eating triggers for me, those foods whose portions I can't control. I'll make a point not to stock those in the house. I'll also do some journaling about why I may be reaching for certain foods to heal my emotions.

**Now make a list of solutions to your eating behavior challenges**

What diet and exercise works for me?

Chances are you've tried several diets and weight loss methods in the past. There are reasons these methods failed you. On the other hand, certain aspects of some weight loss programs may have worked very well for you.


  • I need a flexible eating plan that doesn't eliminate foods I love or call for eating exact percentages of fats, proteins or carbohydrates. This is too strict for me to really live with long-term. A healthy, well-balanced plan that is flexible works for me.

  • I don't have much time to exercise, but several small exercise sessions each day would work.

What diet and exercise plan doesn't work for me?


  • Low carbohydrate diets that restrict the foods I love
  • Counting fat grams
  • Following exact menus
  • Exercising by myself
  • Not being able to dine out on a weight loss plan

**Now make a list of the things that work for you and the things that don't**

For Further Reading:

  • Nutrition Action Healthletter - "The Pressure to Eat: Why We're Getting Fatter"
    An interview with obesity expert Kelly Brownell, Ph.D. This article explores the many potential reasons behind skyrocketing national obesity rates.
  • NIDDK – Health Risks of Obesity and Being Overweight

A good assessment of weight related health risks, assessing your personal risks, and lifestyle modifications to lower risk.

Back to Weight Loss Program Homepage

Weight Loss Program, Part 3: Exercise & Metabolism - Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Determine the calories exercise burns

This web site activity takes you to a site that allows you to determine how many calories you burn doing more than 158 different types of activities. While exercise has many more benefits than just burning calories, sometimes having this knowledge can motivate and push you a little further.

Web Site Activity:

Fitness Partner Jumpsite

Link to the Web site above and enter your current weight in pounds in the first box. In the second box, enter "1" and press "show me". The site gives you the number of calories you burn per minute doing more than 158 different types of exercises. You might wish to print this out for future reference. If you follow "The 250-500 calorie solution" weight loss plan, you will find this site helpful in planning your daily calorie deficit.

ACTIVITY 2: Starting an exercise program and combating excuses

This week's exercise involves just that - exercise! First, you'll decide which types of activities, exercises or sports you enjoy. Next, you'll find answers to your typical exercise excuses. Then, you'll plan ahead for the week and make "appointments" with yourself to exercise. Last, you're going to get out there and do it!

Overview on starting an exercise program

An ideal exercise program involves strength training, aerobic activity, and stretching and flexibility exercises. Your goal for now though, especially if you are a beginning exerciser, simply involves finding something you enjoy and making a commitment to do it for 20 minutes three times a week. Be sure you include some time for a warm-up and stretching. In order for exercise really to be helpful in long-term weight control, strive for a goal of 45-60 minutes, 5-7 days a week (3-4 days of aerobic activity, and 2-3 days of strength training with warm-ups before and cool downs and stretching after). You can gradually build up to this with a slow but steady plan. For instance, you can add 2 minutes to your time each week. Then, after you reach your time goal, add an extra day each month. Then experiment with new exercises to keep your workout plan well rounded and interesting. Eventually, you will enjoy the benefits of exercise so much that you won't worry about scheduling it - you will simply make it happen.

Be sure that you stay within your target heart rate range. If you overdo it initially, you will lose your motivation because you will perceive exercise as being too hard, and you will also make yourself more prone to injury. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you are over 35 or have health problems.

Step 1 - What exercises do you like to do?

To stick with an exercise program, it is very important that you choose exercises you enjoy, and that you start out slowly. Take some time to really think about what you'd like to do to exercise to be sure you'll stick with your program. Consider the following questions when determining which exercises you will choose:

  • When do I like to workout/when is convenient?

  • Do I like to exercise alone or with a friend or a large group?
  • What facilities or activities are nearby or available to me?
  • Do I like to exercise indoors or outdoors?
  • What do I enjoy more and what is more realistic – exercise at home, or exercise at a club or facility?
  • What types of exercises do I enjoy?

You might also wish to find a YMCA or a Sierra Club near you to see the activities and programs they offer. Many people enjoy exercise more when it involves playing sports, taking group classes, or having fun in the outdoors with others. The following Web sites will tell you how to contact the nearest branches of these organizations:

  • ymca.net
    Click on this link to find YMCA programs in your area.

  • sierraclub.org
    Check out the Sierra Club website to find any sponsored activities in your area. Activities include hikes, bikes, skiing, backpacking and much more.

Step 2 - What are your excuses for not being able to exercise?

Write them all down. You should be aware of what you think might get in the way of exercising regularly. You can most likely find solution to every excuse you have. If you can't come up with your own solutions, consult the following Web sites for some motivational ideas and excuse busters:

  • ACE - Battling Boredom

  • Fitness Partners – What's Your Excuse?


Step 3 - Schedule exercise in

Times of the day when I can exercise:

Time # 1 ________________________________

Time # 2 ________________________________

Days that are best for me to fit in a workout:

Day # 1 _________________________________

Day # 2 _________________________________

Day # 3 _________________________________

Activities I'd like to try:

Activity # 1______________________________

Activity # 2 _____________________________

Activity # 3 ______________________________

My Exercise Goals:

Goal # 1 _______________________________________

Goal # 2 _______________________________________

Goal # 3 _______________________________________

Write down your plan for exercise this week. Start out with at least 20 minutes, three days a week, and write it on your calendar or appointment book. Recognize in your mind that as you write down your plan that you are making a commitment to keep that appointment.

Step 4 - you made the plans, now all you need is to do the exercise

Don't ever forget that inside each of us is an athlete. Often, we look at magazines and see photos of fit and healthy people. We assume that that's good for them, but it can never happen to us. Remember, that with the proper amount of work and training, the things you perceive in those photos can be real for you, too. You can control and change your health and fitness level. Now go uncover your athlete!

For Further Reading:

  • ACE Fit Facts
    Links to over 80 articles provided to you by the American Council on Exercise. Everything you ever want to know about exercise and getting fit.

  • Strength Training Basics
    For further information on the benefits of strength training.
  • Cardio Basics
    For further information on what you should know about cardio workouts.