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The Meltdown and Nutrition

By Diane Rhody, YWCA of Minneapolis Personal Trainer
January 31, 2014
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Here’s a question that every personal trainer gets: What is the easiest way to lose weight? More specifically, what is the best diet or meal plan to lose weight?

There really is no magic pill when it comes to losing weight. It comes down to behavior modification and having a healthy relationship with food and your own body. Quite often, people who have a great deal to lose have an unhealthy relationship with food, and are very likely dealing with a food addiction. No person is happy when they are overweight; there is a reason they eat to excess, and finding that reason so that they can be happy — instead of being happy eating — is the key to success.

The best diet and meal plan is very often one of whole foods, with very simple level of carbohydrates, lean protein choices, lots of non-starchy vegetables and colorful fruits. If poor food choices are left behind, a large majority of the time people will lose weight, almost without thinking about it.  Being hydrated will be a great benefit, too.

So, what are the best things to eat before or after a workout? Before a workout, I’d suggest a 15-30g low-carbohydrate snack in an easy-to-digest form — perhaps a piece of fruit and a granola bar, or a glass of milk. A post-workout snack should have a small bit of carbohydrate and up to 35g of lean protein. This is a fairly broad recommendation, so people need to experiment and find what works best for themselves.

And how soon before and after a workout should I eat? This depends on the individual and what they can tolerate. There are all kinds of recommendations; some will hit the nail directly on the head, while others will make the participant ill. Is the workout early in the morning? Then maybe a piece of fruit in the car on the way to the gym is enough, and then a larger snack later. Is the workout in the afternoon? Then one can plan a slightly larger quantity and have more play with the situation, as stomachs are often more settled in the afternoon than upon rising. If a participant is taking medications, that also needs to be taken into consideration.

A post-workout snack should be within 40 minutes of the workout, as the participant can handle it.

What is the best advice you can give to someone who is just starting a weight loss plan? Keep a journal! You are an experiment of one! Keep track of your progress: what you eat, how you feel, your motivations, and your progress on the scale. I have clients who keep track of the weather, as the weather has a tremendous impact on performance and mood. Results don’t happen immediately, and keeping track can give you a better picture of the subtlety of your changes. You’ll be able to see how your mood influences what you do and how effectively you do it, too! People are often much more honest about their intake when they have to write it down, so that frequently keeps the food intake in check.

I am often asked, what healthy eating habits have worked for you? What have worked for your clients? The biggest thing that has worked by my household and for my clients is to stop eating packaged foods and foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). When one can pronounce everything they eat, it limits the useless calories taken in.

Have I had any success stories? My best success story was a client that I was able to see once a week. He started out at over 400 pounds, and we worked together to bring him down into the 200s. We ran the Get in Gear race together, without stopping! He found out what was making him unhappy, so he could stop trying to eat happy, and could be happy instead. Still makes me tear up.

Another success story involved a YWCA member who met weekly with me, and we got her to lose enough weight so she could conceive and have her second child. Both are doing quite well today!

So, do I have any other tips pertaining to nutrition and weight loss? I would recommend that people who have substantial weight to lose use the Meltdown as a launching pad to build great habits that will carry them through to their goals. The most success I’ve seen in weight loss is in people who meet weekly with a registered dietitian to keep on top of behavior change and goal-setting. It takes eight weeks to eliminate most food addictions and to reform the part of the brain that wants processed foods. Having a coach and support during that time helps considerably to get people through it.