How to use the nutrition facts label to make healthier food choices
A reader of my column had the following question.
Q: I’m a 66 year-old male (who exercises) with free weights and some machines (leg extensions, lat pulldowns, etc.) three days per week, and I walk five to six days per week … for 20 minutes to 45 minutes. I want to lose 30 pounds ... with the greatest percentage of weight loss being fat. How would you advise I approach this?
A: First of all, your workout routine looks impressive. You are training your muscles enough to stimulate them, while also ensuring that you allow them time for recovery. I am assuming that you are hitting all body parts in a balanced manner (chest and back, triceps and biceps, etc.).
Your cardio regimen is also something to be happy about. Walking every day for 20-45 minutes is a great way to keep your heart and lungs strong, as well as to keep you from accumulating excess fat. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, and it appears that you get up to 270 minutes with your current routine. Not bad at all!
Now, your question is essentially regarding what you should do to lose 30 pounds. With your workout regimen being what it is and without knowing anything about the way you eat, I would say the first thing you need to examine is your diet.
Exercise is very important, but when it comes to losing fat, diet is king. According to MyFitnessPal.com, you would burn about 200 calories on a 45-minute walk. However, according to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a man of your age should be consuming an average of 2,200 calories per day. That means that if you ate, say, four meals a day, that comes out to 550 calories per meal. In other words, you would have to walk more than two hours to burn off the calories you ate in just one meal.
To start losing the fat, focus on three things regarding your diet. The first thing is, eat real. If a human had anything to do with creating it, then you should avoid it. That includes pretty much anything that comes in a box, a can or a plastic container, with the exception of maybe dried beans and rice. Processed foods are definitely not your friends when it comes to fat loss.
Second, eat your vegetables. Many people eat relatively healthy and still struggle with weight problems because they consume too much breads, potatoes and grains. Now, granted, small portions of such foods are part of a healthy diet, so you don’t have to totally avoid them.
However, to lose fat, the bulk of your diet needs to be leafy and/or “watery” vegetables such as broccoli, greens, green beans, peppers, onions, lettuce and other such vegetables. All of these are high in nutrients, yet they are so low in calories that you can eat your fill of them and still be able to lose the fat.
Finally, make sure that water is your only drink, except for special occasions. Yes, I know that to say such a thing in the South where sweet tea flows like the Ocmulgee River is almost blasphemous, I’m sure. But trust me: Nothing keeps you struggling with excess fat like sugary drinks.
Focus on these diet changes, maintain your exercise routine, and you should be on the way to losing those last 30 pounds.