CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
For several months, I've been exercising regularly and trying to eat healthy. I've lost a few pounds and feel much better and stronger, but I am not losing weight like I think I should. I am taking a group strength-training class three times a week and walking almost every evening. I walk very fast, so I should be burning calories. I think I need to lose about 20 pounds before I will feel lean. I have no more time to exercise more so it is probably my diet, but I have cut down portions. Any advice? -- Sandra
You are certainly doing a lot of things right. Your exercise commitment is enviable and combining strength training with cardio walks will definitely pay off in the end. Your heart and lungs as well as your muscles will be strong with this program.
Your weight-loss goal, however, requires an emphasis on diet in addition to your physical activity. Losing those 20 pounds will involve a concentrated effort to count calories to ensure that at the end of most days you are in a calorie deficit.
How to affect eating behaviors?
The most successful way to keep our food choices and portions in check is to see them recorded in black and white. That's right -- a food log or diet journal is often the missing link on the weight-loss chain. Many shudder at the thought of putting everything they eat and drink down on paper, but those who hate it most probably need it most. It adds accountability into the weight-loss puzzle. It's true that being dedicated to your training will make you stronger, but if you can't budge the belly fat, your eating habits are highly suspect.
Why must I track my diet?
Losing weight is 70 percent about what we put in our mouth -- including beverages, which many people fail to truly recognize as calories. Food logs hold us responsible for what we say yes to each day. Writing down everything we pop in our mouth or gulp down on the run gives us a clear picture of why we fail to reach weight-loss goals.
Now, before you freak out about adding one more duty to your day, remember you may need to track these dietary habits only for 10 days to two weeks. This is enough time for patterns to emerge and to reveal why you're losing the battle of the bulge. Seeing when you eat is as important as when you don't eat because skipping meals can sabotage your exercise performance as well as your ability to shed pounds.
There's an app for that!