Sometimes the best way for us to learn is through the questions of others. I thought it would be enlightening to highlight answers to some of the most common questions I am asked on the "Ask the Dietitian" message board about the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic (WLC) program and weight loss in general.
If you have other questions, please visit me on my "Ask the Dietitian" message board and post them there. I love hearing from each of you, and learning as much from you as (I hope) you do from me. Your questions also help give our staff great insights into your needs, and ways we can improve the program.
Here are my picks for most popular questions:
Q. How do I know when I need to change my plan?
A. There are several circumstances under which you should consider changing your plan. All require that you click on "Create a New Plan" on the navigation bar to the left of your screen, under "My Eating Plan."
Here are some likely scenarios, and which option you should choose for each:
1. You have met your goal weight, and want to maintain your new weight instead of continuing to lose.
- Choose option 4 and add approximately 200 calories per day for maintenance. Stick with the program for continued support to help maintain the new you!
2. The amount of food prescribed on the plan appears to be too much for you.
- Choose option 3 to reduce your calories by approximately 200 per day.
3. The program seems to have prescribed too many calories, and you are not losing weight with your current eating plan and physical activity routine.
- Increase the frequency or duration of your physical activity; and/or reduce your calories by 200 per day by choosing option 3.
4. You would like to add or delete foods in your eating plan, or feel you have too much bread (or other type of food) on your plan.
- As you progress on the eating plan, you may decide to increase the amount of healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and decrease the amount of bread, sweets, or other foods. Go back into the questionnaire by choosing option 2. Delete the foods you want less of, and check the foods you want more of. Tell us what you like; we'll do the rest.
Q. Help! I am working out and eating healthfully, but my weight won't budge.
A. It's not unusual to hit a plateau during a weight-loss program. Give yourself a "checkup" to make sure you are following the prescribed portion sizes. A little extra food at every meal can add up, and halt your weight loss.
Also, make sure you are getting at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity. How strenuous should it be? The best activity level is comparable to walking to try to catch a bus. The important thing is, if you hit a plateau, don't get discouraged -- get even, by making sure you are burning more calories than you eat.
Q. Are sugar substitutes safe, and how much of them can I consume each day?
A. There are many safe sugar substitutes that can help people lose weight by reducing calories while allowing them to enjoy the taste of sweetness. The government has deemed all the artificial sweeteners on the market safe for normal consumption.
We recommend consuming artificial sweeteners in moderation; a few servings a day is perfectly acceptable. You can choose whichever artificial sweeteners you like.
But remember: If you are trying to reduce your cravings for sweets, artificial sweeteners are not the answer. Try to satisfy your sweet tooth with foods that are naturally sweet, such as fruits and fruit juices.
Q. What kinds of supplements are recommended to help speed up weight loss?
A. We do not recommend taking any over-the-counter appetite suppressants or weight-loss medications. It is much healthier to adopt a lifestyle of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, and to learn to control your appetite.
These weight-loss aids are a Band-Aid approach to losing weight. They are generally ineffective, and some can even be dangerous.
Your eating plan is designed to provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals. However, it's a good idea to take a daily multivitamin/mineral for nutritional "insurance."
Q. How do I control my hunger so that I don't binge on high-calorie foods?
A. Including protein and fiber in all your meals and snacks is an excellent way to control hunger.
Fiber from foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, acts like a sponge to fill up your belly. And protein sticks around in your stomach longer than any other major nutrient, keeping hunger at bay for hours. Good sources of protein include seafood, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. Make sure you include these satisfying foods at every meal to help keep you feeling full until the next meal.
Q. I want to include dairy into my diet, but I have a hard time tolerating it. Is there anything I can do?
A. Individual tolerance to dairy can vary. Some people suffer from lactose intolerance, and should strictly avoid all foods containing lactose. Others have a limited tolerance, meaning they can enjoy dairy in small amounts.
If you have lactose intolerance, look for non-dairy, calcium-enriched foods and supplements to meet your daily allowances.
If you have lactose sensitivity, choose cultured yogurts, aged cheeses, and lactobacillus milk. Try small amounts of dairy along with other foods, and gradually increase the amount of dairy as tolerated. Three servings a day of dairy, along with a reduced-calorie diet, have shown promise in speeding up weight loss.
Q. How do I handle my cravings for certain foods?
A. The first line of defense is to try to satisfy your craving with a nutritious snack that fits into your eating plan. Have plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand to munch on, and you may well be satisfied.
If the craving continues, give into it -- within reason. If chocolate ice cream is calling your name, have a small portion of fat-free or low-fat chocolate frozen yogurt, or a frozen fruit bar. If it's chocolate candy that you crave, satisfy your need for sweets with a piece of hard candy, or savor every bite of a snack-size chocolate bar. Allowing yourself only one small indulgence per day can help you start to get a handle on your cravings.