Eat, Drink and Be Healthy columnist Jennifer Huget set out in February to lose 10 pounds before she turned 50 in December. 10 months after she started her "Me Minus 10" quest, Jennifer has lost that much weight and more. She is joined by physician and expert in the fields of nutrition, metabolism and fitness Dr. Pam Peeke. Chat with them about weight loss journeys.

Dec 07, 2010

Well, I'm back from the gym and have my stash of Doublemint gum handy, so I'm ready to chat about Me Minus 10 and answer your questions about losing weight! Thanks for joining me and Pam Peeke. I'm sorry that my other weight-loss guru, Brian Wansink, wasn't able to be with us this afternoon. And I thank both Pam and Brian for all the help they've given me as I worked my way down the scale.

Hi ladies, Could you talk about the biggest lifestyle change you made to achieve your weight loss goal? Thanks!

Interestingly, it wasn't so much one big lifestyle change but a lot of smaller ones. It was incredibly liberating to stop picking at food in the kitchen while I was doing dishes, for instance, and to start eating "Jennifer-sized" portions of food. Brian Wansink recommended I start by coming up with three small changes I could make and stick with for the first leg of my journey; once I had those under my belt, I could choose a few more to tackle. Those small changes -- including not taking second helpings, for instance -- have become tools I can always rely on to keep me on track.

Is not eating after 6 p.m. (except for milk and fruits) a healthy way to lose weight?

That's certainly one of the tips you hear time and again, and I'm sure it works great for some people. But it was completely unrealistic for me, as my family always eats together, but often not until 8 p.m. or so, once everyone is back from all the crazy activities we do. My strategy is to not take seconds and, once I've finished my dinner, not to eat another bite until morning. Oh, how I have come to love breakfast!

So...was your approach strictly based upon dieting or was there an exercise component as well? Assuming both, which provided the better boost in terms of weight loss?

Oh, I could never have lost this weight without getting lots of exercise! I learned, though, that while I had always exercised, I wasn't doing so very efficiently. Brian and Pam had me switch up my routine: Hopping off the treadmill a few times during my daily run to to a set of squats or pushups, for instance. Pam turned me on to resistance bands, which helped me build some more muscle mass, which in turn, as if by magic, helped burn more calories. I also have become a big fan of Bikram yoga, which is very challenging but which has been central to my weight-loss effort.

Is there a way to incorporate wine into a weight loss diet/exercise plan. I read Dr. Peake's book BODY FOR LIFE FOR WOMEN and found it very useful. It doesn't mention wine at all. Should I just avoid it all toghether?

I'll let Pam answer this one, too, but in my experience, cocktails or wine can indeed fit into a weight-loss plan. I have continued to enjoy my wine and cocktails (in moderation, of course!) throughout my weight loss. I never have dessert or any other sweets, though; if you are going to enjoy wine, you need to be aware of how many calories your glass holds and to cut back elsewhere.

what is easiest way to lose ten pounds?

 I do not believe there is an "easy" way to lose 10 pounds, at least not if you want to keep it off, too. It certainly can be done, but it does take work and a long-term commitment to changing your eating and exercise habits. Once you get going, though, in my experience, it does become a bit easier, though it's always in the back of your mind.

Were any of the small changes harder than others to accomplish?

As I wrote in my Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column today, I think the hardest "small change" for me to maintain was not picking at food while I cook and clean up. Just the other night I was grating a wedge of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of a vegetable dish I'd cooked, and my impulse was to pop the rind in my mouth, just as I had done for years. That was a mindless behavior of mine that I had to become conscious of and stop doing. It's still hard, even after all these months.

Did you have any injury setbacks to your exercise and if so how did you overcome?

Aside from the occasional stiff joint or sore muscle, I didn't really have any injury setbacks. One day my foot hurt so much I almost wanted to cry, but I realized it was because I hadn't done yoga in a few days, so I just did a nice, slow yoga routine and felt better right away. I did have a huge disruption to my exercise routine, though, that felt like a major setback: My regular yoga studio closed abruptly, so I went from doing 4 or 5 yoga classes a week to doing just the one Bikram class (at another studio). At the same time, all my home exercise equipment broke! I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me! So I stared practicing yoga at home and joined a gym. Feeling much better now!

First off congrats on losing the weight!! Second: I'm trying SO hard to lose the weight. I've joined a boot camp style fitness that has greatly increased my musle tone, makes me look toner but the numbers on the scale haven't budged. My body fat percentage is still a whopping 35 percent after 8 months of solid working out. I've realized the problem is my food but how do I get out of that old frame of mind. I track my calories and am not eating more than I should but the kinds of food are hurting me. Everyone talks about carbs, and proteins and different fats but I'm clueless. Where would you go for help? I tried my doctor and she said it'll come with eating right. I met with a nutritionist who all she wanted to do was sell me their home delivery food system. Please help the clueless!

Thanks for the congrats! You can do this, too: You really can. A couple of thoughts: You should read Pam's Fit for Life and the advice she's given me, which I've shared in my Me Minus 10 columns. You should also check out Brian's Mindless Eating. And you should consider finding a registered dietitian. Go through the Web site of the American Dietetic Association to find one near you. Good luck! You are well on the way, just by exercising and being conscious of what you eat!

I am deeply depressed (not on medication) due to events in my personal life. I am also in a very tight schedule time-wise: grad school, small children, money problems, work, single parenting, you name it. But I need to do something to protect my health. What would you recommend?

Hi, Richmond! Sounds as though you have an awful lot on your plate. First, can you find time to see a health-care professional about your depression? You should be able to go through your graduate school's health center to find one. As for your health, I would think that if you can squeeze in a nice, brisk walk in the fresh air on as many days of the week as possible, that should be good for your physical and mental health. Good luck to you.

I'm so happy to see this chat and right in time for the holidays!! How safe are water pills and what types of reactions/side effects do they carry?

Hi. Stay the heck away from water pills for crying out loud. If you want to lose water, sweat! Get up and detox your body that way. Also, remember that as you replenish your water after exercise or even water pills, you go back to the same weight. You're looking to drop fat not water. Water pills can be very dangerous as you can lose precious electrolytes as well.

Just get up and be more active!

Good luck, Dr Peeke

So I'm a 50-year-old female about 20 lbs overweight...I've been walking but walking isn't doing anything for me. what is your advice.

Hi, Walking: You don't mention how long or how fast you walk. But whatever your pace and duration, you sound like a great candidate for resistance training. Pam turned me on to resistance bands, which you use to build muscle. That in turn helps you burn more calories. Plus, you'll feel so good about yourself once you get those nice, toned muscles! The bands are available on line and in sporting-goods stores; they come in various levels of resistance, so you can start off easy and work your way up. They're really inexpensive, too!

Hi Jennifer, your comment about the downsides to losing weight resonated with me. Two years ago I lost about 30 pounds over a long period of time; I have gained back about 5-8 lbs but otherwise held the extra weight at bay (whew). I am still working to replace my wardrobe, which was far more expensive than I could have guessed! But the other odd thing was the feelings of fear/anxiety that I struggled with -- as the pounds began to disappear, I often felt anxious about this new smaller self. I realized I was used to the way I looked, and sometimes I caught myself thinking I should stop losing weight because I was afraid of how my body looked so different. Normally I'm fairly rational, but those weird feelings caught me off guard. It showed me that losing weight is about as mental as it is physical.

Hi, "Fear"! I hear you! I wasn't prepared for the emotional side of losing weight, and I think it could really de-rail a weight-loss effort if you couldn't come to grips with it. Good for you for figuring it out and keeping your weight re-gain to such a minimum! I also had others in my life express that they were uncomfortable with the new, thinner me.

My question is for the doctor: I  am 52, postmenopausal, and at an excellent weight and BMI according to my doctor. For as long as i can remember, I have always struggled with overeating. Ihave tried numerous times to eat breakfast as is recommended by experts. yet, when I eat breakfast, it seems to make me constantly hungry for the whole day. even when I commit to doing it for a period of time, the constant hunger/craving does not go away over time. I've tried different portions and varied the protein content. Nothing helps. My exercise is yoga, pilates, walking. More strenuous exercise gives me migraines. Thank you.

Hi there. This is a common problem with people. The most satisfying meals and snacks involve lean protein. You need to have lean protein on board to quell your appetite and hunger. Eggs, low fat cheese, peanut or almond butter, oatmeal mixed with whey protein powder are a few examples. Stay away from lots of carbs only--- you need to add protein. That will help. research shows that a healthy breakfast is the greatest predictor for dropping and sustaining weight.


Good luck, Dr. Peeke

I remember reading a post where you said that you were working out 3 hours/day when you were losing weight. Now that you're at (or past) your goal weight, how is your daily routine changing?

Hi, Bethesda: A lot of people have asked me about that 3-hour thing, and with good reason. At the peak of my Me Minus 10 effort, I was logging about that much a few times a week, but not because I set out to do so. It just happened that if I went to a Bikram class, then worked out with my resistance bands, then took a long hike with my husband, it would add up to that much. Now that I am where I am, I've scaled way back. I still do 45 minutes of cardio work (bike, treadmill, elliptical trainer) a day, plus a round of resistance training at the gym and, on a good day, a bit of yoga at home. And I have been taking lots of long walks with friends. Thanks for asking!

I am going to hit the big 5-0 in a little less than a year and have spent much of the last decade trying to take off the 40 or so pounds I put on after moving to Switzerland in 2001. I've tried numerous plans and programs, but now that the doctor has told me that my blood pressure and blood sugar is a bit elevated I'm trying the medical route and am now on Xenical. It seems to be working, but it is slow. Add to it the fact that I am not working, feel isolated and bored, and have too much time to spend thinking about food. I do work out with weights 3 times a week and try to walk as much as possible. What can I do to keep my spirits up and my focus away from food all the time?

Your answer is to get a life for crying out loud. Volunteer, get out and help other people. If anyone sits around all day, they'll be bored (which is a form of stress) and overeat. Come on, get up and get outside and make new friends and try new adventures. Regarding the medical route, no pill will stop you from overeating. Xenical does not do that. It simply alters food absorption. It's no panacea or cure. You still have to eat whole foods responsibly and stay active every single day. That's especially true when you have so much time on your hands.

So get out there and get a life! You can do it!

Good luck, Dr. Peeke

I don't want to be negative, but I think making a big deal out of losing 10 pounds is a little insulting to very overweight people. Many obsese people will go up and down 10 pounds in the course of a month. Losing large amounts of weight and keeping them off over times is very, very difficult and much harder than losing 10 pounds for what is so a far a short amount of time. Almost five years ago I lost 90 pounds and have gained back 10, but I feel fortunate for have beaten the weight loss odds. It can be done, but it is not easy or quick.

I completely understand your point -- and the last thing I ever wanted was to be insulting to anyone, no matter what their size or shape. I just had become aware that there are lots of resources for and media attention paid to big weight losses (think Biggest Loser), and there didn't seem to be much out there in the way of inspiration for the untold millions of people who just have 10 pounds to lose. I wanted to fill that gap. I'm very impressed by your accomplishment; I know it was neither easy nor quick. My feeling is that we're all in this together, and the more inspiration and support we can give each other, the better! Thanks for writing!

What's your best low-cal snack when you're dying of hunger?

First, I never let myself get to the "dying of hunger" stage: I make sure each meal is filling and satisfying enough to tide me over to the next one. For snacks, I do something I never ever used to do: I eat fruit and vegetables! Grapes, bananas, apples, oranges, red bell peppers -- they're all great, and they really are satisfying if you take time to enjoy each bite!

Greek yogurt is another great source of breakfast protein and it's "grab and go," which I know I need in the morning.

I love Greek yogurt, too!

I'm a pro at losing weight -- I've lost more in my life that I currently weigh (and I'm overweight again). I know how to eat, the importance of exercise, etc. but when I'm at my "goal," I feel like a crazed animal constantly craving food. I eat more and the weight comes back. I've heard that 90-95% of dieters gain it back. Has anyone figured out how to keep the weight off?

You and everyone else out there! Research from the National Weight Control Registry (look them up) shows that there are simple rituals used by people who have shed an average of 50 pounds and kept it off for more than 10 years. The most important of all is taking small steps, consistency and avoiding perfectionism. It's about being real each day, staying accountable to yourself and to any support system you have, and working on those behaviors that impede achieving your goal. You can eliminate food cravings by eating smaller meals every 3-4 hours throughout the day and including lean protein each time. Protien kills carb cravings and is very satisfying. Successful losers also burned on average 400 cals of physical activity per day. These are the rules and tools that will help get you there. Your motivation is the driving force. You need one that is personal and meaninful, and something associated with a goal that includes a measureable outcome (numbers) as well as behavior changes.

Check out Body for Life for Women where I have laid down this blueprint.

Good luck! Dr Peeke

I think your response that there's no easy way to lose weight is a little off. I think a lot of people overthink the problem. First of all, don't try to lose the weight all at once; you surely didn't gain it all at once. Secondly, to actually lose the weight, you need to make two lifestyle choices: exercise more and don't eat junk. As someone who started eating healthier this year (after cardiac arrest), I found that as I ate better food (more veggies and fruit) and less jumk, I craved less snacks. I guess my body was trying to tell me it needed nutrients and I was responding with Pringles and Twizzlers. But people, you don't need to overthink it. And see a cardiologist before beginning an exercise program.

I do agree that you can overthink the problem. But, still, losing weight and keeping it off requires, in my experience, constant vigilance and commitment to a routine. It's not necessarily hard, but it is still work. Good for you for cutting the junk from your diet!

I understand your personal motivation to lose those 10 pounds, but what was your journalistic motivation? Were you trying to inspire people who need to lose a little weight (like your 10 pounds) or the more seriously overweight or obese? Was it to show how easy/hard it is to take off weight? What drew you to write this set of columns?

Hi! I think I answered this a minute ago when I replied to the person saying my Me Minus 10 program was a bit insulting to people who had lots more weight than ten pounds to lose. Can you read that answer and write again if it doesn't address your question, please?

You mentioned in one of your answers that you never eat sweets. Was that a big change for you and how do you handle the temptation? I have a sweet tooth, so this is a big issue for me. And Holiday season and all the goodies are upon us!

Well, I don't think there was anyone on Earth who had more of a sweet tooth than I used to have. I'm talking about eating whole bags full of candy corn, or even marshmallows. Or eating candy bars -- note the plural -- for breakfast. I was in a really bad way! I am convinced that you can wean yourself from sweets. I can walk past candy now and not even remember that it's something people put in their mouths!

Hi Ladies: Thanks for the great chat! I had a baby in June and am now fitting into my "Big Girl" clothes. I'd still like to take off 15lbs. or so but am having a hard time fitting in excericse with a full time job and two under-5s on my plate (sorry, bad pun). Any suggestions?

I'll be that boatloads of women out there can identify with you. The key is to remember that it's nutrition as well as exercise that you need to manage and monitor. Look at your food intake--- appropriate portions of whole foods and lean protein are key. Eat every 3-4 hours and get as much sleep as you can, given your kids' needs. Exercise for you involves getting up as much as you can while at work. Try to get up and walk somewhere for 5 mins every hour, and really take some kind of walk or up and down the staircases at work. Be creative. You don't need a gym to do strength training. Hit the floor and do some bent knee push ups. In Body for Life for Women there are plenty of options for non-gym busy women exercises.

When you can, please delegate to your better half or someone else so that you can hit the gym or go out for that walk. women are so hesitant to do this. Please try to lean on others so that you can stay active and healthy.

Good luck, Dr Peeke

What if you'd made all the changes you did and the weight didn't come off? Would you still be following your new routine? Do you feel better, or is this about outside measures?

That's a really good question, and I have to say I'm stumped. If I had made all those changes and not lost weight, I think I would have seen a doctor to figure out what was up. Having succeeded at losing the weight, though, I have to say I do feel much better. Even little things like being able to cross your legs without feeling like your thighs are going to burst through your jeans feel wonderful! And, as I wrote in today's Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column, the confidence I've gained through getting a handle on my weight has been very valuable.

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, but I'll ask anyways. This year has been hard on my body. Earlier in the year I was suffering from a herniated disc and sciatic pain, then at the end of June I tore my ACL and had surgery at the end of September. Needless to say, I've gained some weight because of it and there isn't a ton I can do yet since both problems are lingering. Any suggestions on what exercised to do that won't injure me further?

Lots of people put on weight when they are immobilized by disabilities. You need to work closely with your doctor as well as your physical therapy team in order to come up with a safe schedule of exercises you can do to maintain as much tone and muscle mass as possible. Swimming is often a superb way to go. You need to get med clearance for all activities first. Be patient as you will be able to increase activity gradually over time. Rein in the eating!

Good Luck, Dr Peeke

Did you measure portions, or just cut back to what looked reasonable? I have some resistance to measuring accurately, but know that portion size is one of my biggest challenges.

I started by measuring portions of some foods -- meat, pasta, and rice, for instance. But after a while you get the hang of it and don't need to measure. Except I have noticed lately that I've been serving myself a little extra, so I'm going to get out the measuring cups again to keep myself honest. Also, Brian Wansink had suggested I try eating off smaller plates. It's very hard to get too big a serving of each element of your meal if you're fitting it all onto a salad dish!

Did you count calories? If so, how many per day and how did you count?

I do not count calories; it just makes me obsess, which ultimately is detrimental to my weight-management efforts. However, Pam had recommended that during the hard-core weight-loss phase of my plan, I aim for something like 1200 to 14oo calories a day. I think that, by cutting portion sizes, choosing more reasonable foods, and cutting out seconds, I probably was consuming just about that much.

I've struggled trying to find a breakfast food that has a good belt of protein and tastes good, without going the powder route. While I stay away from processed foods as a pretty firm rule, I just tried Jimmy Dean's new lite turkey sausage breakfast bow. 230 cals, 23g protein. Bit of fat, bit too high on sodium, but otherwise seems like a pretty good start to a day.

The other protein options include the Morning Star products which are soy based and include breafast patties and veggie burgers. They take no time to heat up and voila you have lean protein. Don't forget that peanut butter is terrific. Use organic and whole fat peanut butter on a WASA multigrain cracker and it'll stick to your ribs for hours, and very satisfying. There's nothing wrong with protein powder inwhey protein shakes or added to oatmeal. I use it all of the time. Or you can use salmon or even chicken. You just want to get some lean protein on board.

Dr Peeke

Why not the Weightwatchers approach? I've been doing the on-line version for 2 months and am down 15 pounds - need to exercise too, and not eat mindlessly, as you mentioned.

Weight Watchers is a tried and true method that works for millions of people! I had tried it a couple of times and not found I was able to stick with it, but that's been some time ago. I find I am not good at keeping track of calories or points; as I said in another answer a moment ago, that kind of thing brings out my worst obessesive tendencies! But I know WW's a well-considered plan that many doctors recommend. Congratulations on your weight loss!

I lost 20 lbs between this summer and now. I'd like to lose 5-10 lbs more, but am finding it much more difficult than the first 20! I suppose I've been less strict with my diet, but I've maintained the dailly exercise and really don't eat junk food. Any advice on how to get past the dreaded plateau?! Thanks!

Congrats on removing the first part of your excess fat. I suggest that you get your body fat% done and find out where you are. If you're a woman you're looking to be around 25% and a guy closer to 20%. Don't look so much at weight as body composition. to drop the rest of the fat in a sustainable way, you need to add weight training for sure to reshape and tighten up as you remove the last pounds. Also, better muscle makes all of this more sustainable anyway. to get through the plateau you need to shake up the system. stay consistent with all of your baseline excellent healthy habits as well.

Good luck, Dr Peeke

Have you all reviewed the new updated Weight Watcher Points Plus program? What do you think? Is all-you-can-eat fruit too risky for those of us who obviously have problems limiting food quantities to begin with?

I actually will be writing an Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column about WW's new approach in the next few weeks. I haven't done all my reporting and research yet, though, so I'm not going to render an opinion just yet, other than to say that I can hardly see a down side to eating more fruit.

Is there really any way to get rid of the flabby stomach that many of us end up with after having babies?

If there is, I'd like to know about it! (Obviously, there's surgery.) My kids poke at my belly flab and say it looks and feels like bread dough!

Dr Peeke, is there a minimum amount of calories that should be eaten? The science seems to be all over the place. If so, how do you calculate it? I'm less than 5 feet tall, so "eat at least 1200 calories" doesn't work for me.

Hi there. Traditionally, we say never to fall below 1200 cals. That's for an average heighted individual, which you are not. Also, you can still consume 1200 cals so long as you're exercising as well. The exercise is like money in the bank, adding more calorie currency to your total daily calories. Exercise always gives you wiggle room. Even for short statured people, I wouldn't go much below 1200 cals, esp with physical activity going on.

Dr Peeke

Congats on your weight loss. The last 10 minutes is tough so what you did was significant. Could you tell us a little more about your exercise routine? What do you do with the resistance bands and what is the frequency/length of your workouts? Also, didn't you used to do Vinyasa yoga? Why do you think Bikram yoga has been so helpful for your weight loss?

I do still do Vinyasa yoga, which calms my mind and brings me peace. After a certain point, though, it wasn't really very efficient at burning calories, I found. Bikram is a long and physically challenging class (26 postures, each performed twice, for a total of 90 minutes -- in a 105-degree room!)

Sorry! I think the chat is over!

Thanks for all the great questions! This has been fun; the time just flew. I hope you all have healthy and happy holidays!

In This Chat
Jennifer LaRue Huget
In addition to writing the weekly Eat, Drink and Be Healthy nutrition column, Jennifer also blogs on health news for The Checkup and writes the Lean and Fit newsletter.
Dr. Pamela Peeke
Dr. Pamela Peeke is an internationally recognized physician, scientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, metabolism, stress, and fitness.
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