The alarming health effects of drinking soda

health effects of drinking soda

Let’s be honest: Few things are as refreshing as a nice, cold soda. But while drinking the occasional soda is OK, it’s not healthy to make fizzy, sweetened beverages a regular part of your diet — and not just because it can add inches to your waistline. Drinking soda can also cause a wide range of health problems in addition to obesity.

Soda can contribute to type-2 diabetes

There is strong evidence that shows a connection between regular soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.

People who consume soda regularly (one or two cans per day or more) have a 26 percent increased risk of developing the disease than people who rarely drink soda.

A study of 90,000 women that took place over eight years found that women who reported consuming at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink per day were twice as likely to have developed type-2 diabetes.

Soda can increase your risk of heart disease

Regularly drinking sugary drinks also has a negative impact on your heart health.

A study conducted over 20 years found that men who consumed a can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than men who rarely consumed soda. Studies show the same link between soda and heart disease in women.

In fact, in the same study of 90,000 women mentioned above, women who drank more than two servings of a sugary drink per day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.

Researchers found that even when the women ate an otherwise healthy diet or maintained a healthy weight, the risk of heart disease lowered only slightly. In other words, soda is harmful to your health even if you’re not overweight and you eat a healthy diet.

Experts believe that soda’s high sugar content affects blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and metabolism, all of which can have an effect on your heart health.

Soda is bad for your bones

You wouldn’t think that drinking soda has an impact on your bones, but it does affect bone health, especially in young people. Soda contains high levels of phosphate. If you take in more phosphate than calcium, your bones deteriorate.

In fact, consuming soda tends to decrease your calcium, because you’re then less likely to drink milk, a vital source of calcium.

Soda is linked to obesity

Finally (and most obviously), regularly drinking soda is linked to weight gain. People who consume soda don’t feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. As a result, they eat, which brings its own calorie load.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, weight gain is a simple matter of calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you’re bound to pile on the pounds.

“Soda has no nutritional value whatsoever and definitely has no place in a nutrition plan for healthy living or weight loss,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even diet sodas have no advantage.”

To avoid the many negative health consequences of drinking soda, it’s best to cut soda and other sugary drinks out of your diet. Studies show that reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from your diet can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight.

So next time you get a hankering for a fizzy drink, reach for a glass of sparkling water instead.


How to read a nutrition label the right way

nutrition label

Eating smart means paying close attention to what you’re eating. Nutrition labels on food and drink items are an important but sometimes confusing resource for people who want to stick to a healthy diet.

But what do the numbers on nutrition labels actually mean? Which of the nutrient items really matter? And how do you use a nutrition label to make healthy eating and drinking decisions?

Here’s what you need to know.

What are food labels?

Food labels refer to any of the packaging that describes a food or drink item. They contain language that persuades you to buy the item, but they also contain the facts you need to make good health decisions.

What are nutrition facts?

On food labels, you will often find a mix of marketing messages and hard facts. It’s generally a good idea to ignore the fluff and go straight to the box labeled “Nutrition Facts.”

The Nutrition Facts box is a standard section that appears on all processed foods. It lists important information, such as the serving size, calories, fat content, carbohydrate content, protein content and more.

Serving Size

Starting from the top of the Nutrition Facts box, you’ll find a line that says “Serving Size.” Similar foods have the same serving size. This helps you compare foods more easily. The information about calories, fat, carbs, protein, etc. refers to the amount of that nutrient in the given serving size.

For instance, if a gallon of Vitamin D milk lists its serving size as 1 cup, and if the fat content is 8 grams, then that means there are 8 grams of fat per 1 cup of milk.

It’s important to be aware of how many servings you are consuming. If your glass is larger than 1 cup, you’ll consume more than 8 grams of fat.

Servings Per Container

Underneath the Serving Size item will be a line that says “Servings Per Container.” This item is designed to help you understand how many servings there are in a container.

For a gallon of Vitamin D milk with a serving size of 1 cup, the servings per container will say 16. In other words, there are 16 1-cup servings in that gallon jug.

Calories

The next major item in the Nutrition Facts box is the “Calories” listing. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of a food or drink item.

For a gallon of Vitamin D milk, the calorie number may be around 150. That means there are 150 calories in each 1-cup serving. (Again, if you consume more than one serving, you’ll wind up consuming more than 150 calories.)

Keeping track of your calories is among the most important — if not, the most important — things you can do when you’re trying to lose weight.

When you’re trying to lose weight, you want to consume fewer calories than you burn every day. If you take in more calories than you use up, you’ll gain weight. Use the nutrition facts to make sure you don’t go over your daily limit of calories.

Fat

Under the nutrients section, the first item you’ll see is “Total Fat,” subdivided into “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat.” While fat gets a bad rap, there are numerous types of fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a good type of fat which are important for many of your bodily functions. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, nuts and leafy vegetables. If you were to look at the Nutrition Facts label on such food items, it would would likely show a higher Total Fat number.

So how do you know what food items with a high fat content are good and which you should avoid? Look at the Saturated Fat and Trans Fat lines. These are the two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat.

Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources of food, and can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Trans fat is made from a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. It can also increase your LDL cholesterol levels and boost your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Try to stay away from foods with high saturated fat content (more than 2 grams) and any trans fat content.

Cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol occurs in animal products, such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs and butter. It can contribute to heart disease. Stay under 200 mg per day if you are at risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

Sodium

After “Cholesterol” comes “Sodium.” Sodium is a mineral associated with salt. Salt, processed foods and most restaurant food contains a lot of sodium.

Because consuming high levels of sodium is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke and heart and kidney disease, you should be sure to keep your sodium intake in check.

For healthy adults, the recommended max is 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you have high blood pressure or are older than 51, don’t consume more than 1,500 mg per day.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are found in many foods in a variety of forms, such as sugars, fibers and starches. Eating the right kinds of carbs is essential to a good diet.

The right kinds of carbs are unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. The sorts of carbs that deliver fewer nutrients and satisfaction (so that you wind up getting hungry and eating again sooner) are refined or processed foods, including white bread, pastries and sodas.

How do you know whether your carbs come from the right source? Jump to the Ingredients section, which is located near the Nutrition Facts box. There, words like “enriched” or “white” mean the item contains refined/processed grains, while words like “whole,” “rolled” or “cracked” show the item contains whole grains (the type you want).

Dr. Dirk recommends a low-carb diet for losing weight and keeping it off. Make sure the few carbs you do eat are nutritious whole grains.

Protein

The last nutrient above the vitamins and minerals is “Protein.” Protein is a vital nutrient that powers many chemical reactions that your body needs to perform in top condition.

Dr. Dirk recommends a high-protein diet for individuals trying to lose weight. Keep in mind, though, that foods with high protein content, such as meats, can come along with high saturated fat or cholesterol levels. That’s why it’s good to rely on lean protein sources, such as skinless chicken breast and salmon.

Vitamins and Minerals

The final section in the “Nutrition Facts” box contains information about vitamins and minerals. Specifically, it provides a percentage. That percentage indicates how much of your daily recommended intake a serving of a food/drink item fulfills.

For example, a 1-cup serving of Vitamin D milk provides 30 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake.

Eating abundant vitamins and minerals is crucial to your health. Try to make sure you get enough vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

Food labels can be informative and helpful if used correctly. Remember to use the numbers to make good health decisions. Along with regular physical activity, eating a good diet is the key to losing weight and living a healthy life.

 


Healthy ways to satisfy your sweet tooth

sugar cravings

Few things are as addictive as sweets, and giving into your sugar cravings can have a huge negative impact on your weight loss efforts.

Fortunately, there are smart ways to satisfy your sweet tooth or avoid sweets altogether. Consider the following strategies to have your cake and stick to your diet, too:

Eat fruit

Yes, it’s obvious. But nature’s candy can provide a satisfying hit of sweetness while also delivering the nutrients, vitamins and fiber your body need.s

In particular, berries (especially blueberries, blackberries and strawberries) are an excellent source of natural antioxidants, which help reduce the “oxidative damage” that leads to a range of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Quality over quantity

Controlling your sugar intake doesn’t have to mean giving up sweets forever. Instead of gorging on a pack of cheap candy or a devouring a half-pint of generic ice cream, treat yourself to smaller but higher-quality desserts in moderation.

Whether it’s a fresh, from-scratch cookie, a gourmet chocolate bonbon or a decadent macaron, savor a small, quality treat occasionally rather than eating low-quality packaged treats every day.

If you have a weakness for chocolate, try dark chocolate, which has a range of positive health benefits when eaten in moderation. The key is to buy real (not processed and sweetened) dark chocolate. That means a cocoa content of 60 percent or more.

Don’t waste your sugar

It takes some planning, but consuming sugar wisely can make the difference between reaching your weight loss goals and giving in to your worst impulses.

A simple way to regulate your sugar intake is to make trade-offs. Do you love the occasional soda? Fine, but be sure to take a pass on dessert. Or if you have a craving for dessert, try to forego soda for water.

But remember to avoid making soda a regular habit. They may seem harmless, but sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

Sodas and other sweetened beverages, including juices, are packed with sugar and calories. Naturally, if you drink sugary beverages, you won’t feel as full as if you’d eaten the same calories in the form of solid food.

Distract yourself

Cravings are all about psychology. The more you focus on a food you crave, the stronger and more undeniable that craving gets.

So to avoid giving into a sugar craving, consider distracting yourself. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Strike up a conversation with someone. Anything to get your mind off of that sugary sweet lurking around the corner.

You can also remove yourself from environments that keep dangerous sweets top of mind. For instance, instead of working at a coffee shop with a display full of decadent pastries, try spending time at a food-free coffee shop.

Find a healthy way to make what you love

Here’s a secret: You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite desserts. You just have to get creative with how you make them.

There are countless ways to reinvent your favorite desserts, replacing empty-calorie, high-fat, sugar-loaded ingredients with comparatively healthy alternatives.

Some of our favorite healthy desserts include:

You deserve a sweet every now and then. Using these strategies, you can treat yourself on occasion or find ways to avoid indulging when you know you shouldn’t. All it takes is a little planning and a little strategy, and you can have your dessert while sticking to your weight loss plan.


Parents can’t recognize childhood obesity for these reasons

childhood obesityWeight loss and obesity can be tough subjects to approach, since health and body image can carry significant emotional baggage for many of us. This is especially true when it comes to parents of obese children.

According to a recent study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health, the vast majority of parents underestimate the extent of their child’s obesity and are unable to recognize the need for intervention. Because parents are so likely to misperceive the weight of their children, it’s important to safeguard against these tendencies with an honest assessment of your child’s health.

“This is a very difficult and highly emotional topic for parents to face, much less discuss with a health care professional,” says Dr. Dirk. Still, he urges parents to address such issues objectively.

“When it comes to your child’s current and future health, it is important to put aside feelings and face facts. Parents may think their child’s obesity is a personal failure. It is best to approach the situation as a concerned parent providing the best care for their child.”

While weight loss isn’t all about numbers, the figures published in this study don’t lie. About one-third of parents featured in the study underestimated their children’s body mass index (BMI) in a simple classification that categorized kids as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. While a total of 369 children studied were properly classified as obese, only four parents were able to recognize their own kids as such.

The problem, Dr. Dirk explains, is that childhood obesity often sets kids up for a lifetime of weight-loss and weight-related health struggles.

“Obese children go on to become obese teenagers and then become obese adults,” Dr. Dirk says. “Obesity in teenage years threatens obese adults with major medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea,” he cautions.

Obesity increases emotional and psychological risks, as well. “We can not ignore the difficulties of unkind social interactions between teenagers,” Dr. Dirk says. “It is well known that obese teenagers can be isolated and bullied to the point of exclusion.”

So what can we do to combat childhood obesity? First, parents must remember that obesity is a treatable condition and by no means represents a failure on their part.

“It is very important is for the parents to stay involved and view obesity as a medical condition that must be treated,” Dallas Bariatric Surgeon, Dr. Dirk, advises.

That means starting by taking the child to a doctor for a thorough physical examination and, possibly, blood tests and X-rays. Then the doctor will make recommendations, which may include nutrition counseling with a dietitian, therapy sessions with a nutrition counselor and possibly a referral to a specialist.

While broaching the subject of child obesity can seem daunting, the health benefits and overall improvement in quality of life for children struggling with weight-related issues are well worth the tough discussion. After all, kids should be kids—healthy and free to participate fully in the activities they love.


The dangers of yo-yo dieting

Yo-yo dieting

Yo-yo dieting, or weight cycling, refers to a pattern of losing weight and quickly regaining it that’s common among overweight and obese people.

While research on the consequences of yo-yo dieting is inconclusive so far, a new study from New York University shows that the cycle of weight loss and weight gain can raise the risk of heart problems.

The study suggests that people who experience regular weight fluctuations of eight to 10 pounds are more likely to suffer heart problems, including heart disease and heart attacks, versus those who experience changes of two pounds or less.

The risk of death, heart attack or stroke is more than two times as high for yo-yo-dieters than for those who maintain a relatively stable body weight.

So why does yo-yo dieting have an impact on heart health? The lead doctor in the study hypothesizes that the dramatic changes in weight create stress on the body and prompts hormonal changes that affect the heart.

Other researchers argue that yo-yo dieting may indicate other problems or risk factors that themselves are the cause of the problems exhibited by yo-yo dieters.

While scientific results are still mixed, it’s well-established that the majority of individuals who lose weight are unable to maintain their weight loss for an extended period of time.

As we have discussed on this blog, losing weight and keeping it off is a tall order. Committing to long-term weight loss and maintenance is incredibly difficult and relapse is likely. Nonetheless, it’s important to reduce weight in overweight and obese individuals in order to reduce the risk of a range of health problems.

Because it can be so hard for people who are overweight or obese to lose weight long-term, Dr. Dirk recommends sticking to a weight loss strategy that’s proven to work in the long run rather than jumping from fad diet to fad diet. Eating a low-carb, high-protein diet and committing to 60 minutes of daily physical activity is the only proven, healthy, sustainable weight loss plan.

 


New study shows lack of fitness connected to risk of heart failure

heart failure

According to a new study from UT Southwestern, reduced cardio-respiratory fitness in individuals with high body-mass index (BMI) is responsible for heart failure.

For years, we have known that individuals who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for health problems. “Morbid obesity is a medical condition that affects the entire body,” says Dr. Dirk. One of the problems obesity can cause is heart disease.

Now, we have a better understanding of the link between a high BMI and heart trouble. This study found that a low level of fitness — not obesity itself — is the direct cause of heart failure.

In the study, which included 20,000 individuals, doctors found that low cardio-respiratory fitness (meaning the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system) accounted for 47 percent of the risk of heart-failure hospitalization associated with increased BMI.

The study also found that once low cardio-respiratory fitness is accounted for, changes in BMI do not have a significant association with heart failure risk.

In other words, because low cardio-respiratory fitness (not high BMI) is the direct cause of heart problems, individuals can reduce their risk of heart problems by getting more physically fit. If they do that, changes in BMI (a.k.a. losing weight) have minimal effect on the risk of heart problems.

Because of this finding, the doctors conclude that the “priority should be placed on improving cardio-respiratory fitness over decreasing BMI.”

However, as we’ve discussed on this blog many times, fitness often goes hand in hand with weight. Overweight and obese individuals tend to have less energy, making it harder to do regular physical exercise. Without regular exercise, overall cardio-respiratory fitness declines. And, as the study shows, low cardio-respiratory fitness results in increased risk for heart failure.

Dr. Dirk recommends regular physical activity — along with a low-carb, high-protein diet — for losing weight and keeping it off. However, losing weight and keeping it off also lends itself to regular physical activity, because the body is in better shape to handle the stress of exercise.

It’s important to remember that overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk for other health problems in addition to heart disease.

“Obesity is a total body condition,” says Dr. Dirk. “Beyond heart failure, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, joint pain and even cancer.”

Because high BMI is associated with a range of health problems, it’s important to address the root of the problem by losing weight with a healthy diet, regular exercise and, if needed, additional help through weight loss surgery.

 


5 Feel-Good Ways to Track Your Weight Loss Without a Scale

Staying committed to a weight loss routine can be very difficult. While keeping track of the number on the scale is an important part of your weight loss journey, it doesn’t have to be the only way to track your progress towards a healthier you.

In fact, there are many simple ways you can keep track of the hard work you’re putting into your weight loss and the very real results you’re getting out of it.

Here are a few ways you can take stock of your progress and stay laser-focused on your goal of being healthy without even stepping on the scale.

track your weight loss

 

Take pictures of yourself to document your weight loss journey.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to weight loss. When you’re working every day to lose weight through physical activity and a good diet, nothing is more motivating than seeing your body transform.

Take a picture of yourself every week during your weight loss journey. After a couple of months, you’ll start to notice the changes in your body shape and definition. It feels good to look good, so make sure you remind yourself of how your efforts are paying off.

If you want an added bit of encouragement, consider sharing your photos with close friends and family or, if you’re comfortable doing so, with the wider public on your Facebook or Instagram account. It’s exhilarating to receive support and validation from others as you transform yourself.

Keep an exercise journal.

Any good weight loss plan involves daily physical exercise. One simple way to keep track of your body’s strength and cardiovascular fitness is to keep an exercise journal.

Before you strength train, write down the exercises you plan on performing. Then, as you finish an exercise, write down how much weight you used, how many sets you completed and how many repetitions you did per set.

The same goes for cardio. Write down the type of cardio you plan to do. Then, once you finish, write down the level of intensity and the amount of time you performed the exercise.

If you are diligent with your exercise journal, you’ll start to see a trend toward greater fitness. Your strength training numbers will show that you’re able to lift heavier weights (which is a sign of muscular health), and that your cardio endurance is increasing (a sign that your heart is stronger).

Set and meet daily wellness goals.

Let’s face it: Living a healthy lifestyle is demanding. But just because you may not be able to commit to every healthy habit 100 percent of the time (we’re all human!) doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up and refuse to do anything at all.

A good way to make sure that you’re making constant progress is to set daily wellness goals. Every night, write down three wellness goals for the next day. It can be performing an hour of physical activity, walking 10,000 steps or eating five servings of fruit and veggies. At the end of the day, check in to see if you made good on your goals.

By setting up and hitting small, daily targets over and over again, you’ll see major long-term progress.

Involve a close friend or family member.

It doesn’t have to be lonely on the path to healthy living. Recruit at least one other person, such as a close friend or family member, to provide you with an outsider’s impression of your progress.

Even if your progress starts to become normal to you, another person can help you notice positive changes. Their goodwill and perspective can remind you of the progress you’ve made and give you the fuel to keep pushing.

Try on your old jeans.

As you progress through your weight loss journey, it’s important to acknowledge that the transformation you’ve made is a result of your hard work. If you’ve just pushed through a grueling workout or are craving your favorite old junk food, walk into your closet and try on your old jeans.

Seeing your progress in the inches you’ve lost from your waistline and the pounds you’ve shed from your midsection is sure to light up your day. Do it every couple of months, and you’ll give yourself the added motivation to keep chugging along.

As we’ve mentioned on this blog many times, weight loss is a journey. There are many milestones along the way. It’s important to stop every now and then and take stock of the distance you’ve traveled. Not only will it show you how far you’ve come, but it’ll give you the energy and inspiration to go even further.


5 Daily Aerobic Exercises to Try This Spring

daily aerobic exercises

On this blog, we often talk about how eating a high-protein, low-carb diet is the key to weight loss. But diet alone isn’t enough.

Regular physical activity — specifically aerobic exercise — is also important to losing weight and keeping it off.

Dr. Dirk recommends doing 60 minutes of aerobic activity each day for weight loss.

What are the benefits of aerobic exercise?

Committing to regular aerobic exercise can help you:

  • Lose weight and keep it off.
  • Strengthen your heart.
  • Reduce health risks. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
  • Stay active as you age. Aerobic exercise keeps your stamina strong, and studies show that it also helps your brain stay sharp.

How do you start an aerobic exercise routine?

People who are overweight or obese are often nervous about starting an aerobic exercise routine. The key is to start slow. While 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day should be your goal, you don’t need to do that much on the first day.

Instead, build up to it. For example, walk for 10 minutes on the first few days. Then, after a few days, start walking for 15 or 20 minutes. You’ll surprised by how quickly your body will adjust to aerobic exercise.

Build up to your daily 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, then continue with it. Soon, you’ll begin to notice the benefits of regular aerobic activity.

Always remember that the first day will be the hardest. Once you finish your first day of exercise, you’ll feel good about knowing that the most difficult part is over.

Five aerobic exercises for spring

Aerobic exercise doesn’t need to be complicated or boring. Here are five aerobic exercises that Dr. Dirk recommends trying this spring:

  • Walking. One of the simplest and lowest-impact forms of aerobic exercise is walking. Spring is a great time of year to start a new walking routine. Take advantage of the beautiful weather to take walks around your neighborhood, your favorite park, a local arboretum or any other place you like.
  • Jogging. There’s a reason why spring is marathon season. Try going for jogs through your neighborhood, around a lake or or anywhere else. Be sure to start slow and build up your stamina. If you can only jog for 1 minute, then jog for 1 minute and walk the remaining time.
  • Bicycling. It can be more exciting to bike than walk or jog. So why not hop on your bicycle and go for a morning or evening ride?
  • Rowing. Going to the lake is one of the best things to do in the spring. Instead of relaxing with a cool drink, try rowing. It’s a fun, outdoor aerobic activity that makes good use of your entire body. Just remember to fasten your life jacket and stay safe.
  • Dancing. Why not try an exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise? Dancing is a great way to get your body moving and your heart pumping. Consider taking a Zumba class at your local gym, or simply turn on your favorite music at home and enjoy yourself. You can even get your family and friends in on it. Throw a backyard party, crank up the tunes and dance together!

Eating healthy and exercising daily is a proven way to lose weight, keep it off and improve your overall health. While doing aerobic exercise may be hard at first, keep at it, and you’ll quickly notice the changes in your body and your mood.


The Health Benefits of Walking

health benefits of walkingFrom limited free time to sore joints, it’s easy to find yourself discouraged when it comes to daily exercise. The good news? There are plenty of low-impact options that don’t require an expensive gym membership. In fact, one of the best ways to kick-start weight loss and fight associated diseases like depression and diabetes is one of the simplest: walking.

What Can Walking Do For Me?

The real question is what can’t walking do. From heart health to lower blood pressure and regulated blood sugar, walking is a great way to benefit all systems of the body. A brisk walk taken daily (or even just a few times a week) is shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, as well as breast and colon cancer.

Walking is an easy, cost-free investment in your overall health. Not only does walking extend your lifespan by keeping chronic diseases at bay, but it also improves your quality of life: walking is a great way to trim your waist (and tone those calves, if you throw in a few hills) so you’ll feel strong and confident. The daily dose of Vitamin D that you’ll get from walking outdoors—as well as the rush of feel-good endorphins—is shown to be an effective antidepressant.

Walking and Weight Loss

Complicated workout plans are notoriously difficult to stick with. Walking at a moderate pace, however, is often enjoyable for most people, which means that it’s easy to incorporate into a daily routine. Whether you’re walking solo or with a group (don’t forget your favorite pet!), 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week provides the aerobic exercise you need to help maintain your goal weight. Walking is especially beneficial for patients recovering from bariatric surgery, since it’s a low-impact, self-directed activity that lets you go at your own pace.

Getting Into a Routine

When you’re walking for fitness, you’ll get maximum benefits if you pay a little extra attention to your posture. Engage your core by standing up tall and looking straight ahead, and minimize impact by walking smoothly, rolling from heel to toe. Pumping your arms just slightly will keep those muscles toned, while choosing a few hills is great, low-impact form of strength training. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to work your way up to the recommended 30-60 minutes a day, five days a week. Just remember that, no matter where you start, the most important thing is that you do start.

Dr. Dirk’s weight-loss patients are often advised to embrace walking as an enjoyable way to keep weight off post-surgery. Whether you’re looking for lakeside trails or you march right through the center of town, incorporate the things you love into your daily walks to ensure that you stick with your regimen.


Dr. Dirk Busts 5 Common Diet Myths

5 Common Diet Myths

Nutrition and diet can be tricky subjects, especially with the amount of misinformation that can be found on the internet. Unfortunately, diet myths are widespread, and you’ve probably come across one or more of them in your efforts to lose weight.

In this post, Dr. Dirk will dispel some of those diet and nutrition myths to help you make smarter, healthier choices about food.

Myth No. 1: Fad diets can help me lose weight and keep it off.

If your goal is long-term weight loss and good health, avoid fad diets.

Fad diets tend to focus on fast weight loss by reducing your food intake or by avoiding certain foods altogether. Such diets can be nearly impossible to follow long-term, because it’s very difficult to keep certain foods out of your diet for good. Many people on fad diets give up after a while and end up putting the weight back on.

Dr. Dirk recommends…

The most reliable way to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way is to commit to a high-protein, low-carb diet eaten in small, regular meals, and to participate in daily physical activity.

Focus on getting lean proteins (skinless chicken breast, salmon, lean red meat), complex carbs (brown rice, quinoa, beans), and a variety of colorful vegetables in your diet. This combo will deliver the best mix of calories and essential nutrients for your body.

Myth No. 2: Eliminating carbs from my diet can help me lose weight.

Complex carbs, such as whole grains, provide an essential source of nutrients, such as dietary fiber, iron, B vitamins and more. By totally eliminating carbs from your diet, you also lose out on the body’s main source of fuel.

Dr. Dirk recommends…

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. If you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off, your goal should be to consume a high-protein, low-carb (not no-carb) diet, with an emphasis on complex carbs, such as whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, etc.) instead of refined or simple carbs (white rice, white bread, candy, soda).

Myth No. 3: Some people can eat whatever they want and never gain weight.

There are a range of factors that can influence your weight, including genetics, age and lifestyle habits.

But gaining or losing weight is mainly a matter of calories. Simply put, if you burn more calories than you consume in a day, you’ll lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

Dr. Dirk recommends …

Since losing weight boils down to burning more calories than you consume, your goal should be to consume a healthy amount of calories per day, and to perform enough physical activity in order to burn those calories and more.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be high-intensity — it can be as simple as taking a walk or dancing. The most important thing is that you get up and move each day.

Myth No. 4: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

People who skip meals tend to overeat at their next meal. Instead of consuming two small meals of 300-400 calories each, they might eat one meal of 600-800 calories.

Studies show that when two groups of people eat similar calorie amounts — one in multiple smaller meals, the other in one large meal — the meal skippers exhibit elevated fasting glucose levels and delayed insulin response, which could contribute to diabetes over time.

If that isn’t persuasive enough, studies also show a link between skipping breakfast and obesity.

Dr. Dirk recommends…

A better way to approach weight loss is to consume smaller meals throughout the day, instead of hitting your body with a giant dose of calories after hours of hunger.

Myth No. 5: Low-fat or fat-free means fewer calories.

While a low-fat or fat-free version of a food can be lower in calories than a full-fat version, that’s not always the case.

Low-fat and fat-free foods often undergo processing to remove fat. In order to maintain the taste and texture of the food, manufacturers often add ingredients, such as flour, salt, starch or sugar. That means that some low-fat or fat-free food products can have more calories than a full-fat product.

Dr. Dirk recommends…

Always read the nutrition label to check the calories contained in a serving size.

There are a lot of lingering diet myths online. Always be sure to do your research and talk to a doctor to find out whether your nutrition choices are backed up by facts. You may be surprised at what you learn.