Diet Tips

Exercising When You’re Overweight

When you’re overweight or obese, working out can be uncomfortable in more ways than one. Here’s help.
By Pamela Babcock
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

When you have a lot of weight to lose, it can be hard to work out. Not only is it physically uncomfortable, but there are often emotional challenges, too — particularly if you feel too out of shape to go to a gym filled with buff bodies and wall-to-wall mirrors.

Amy Stevens has been there. The 38-year-old from Erwin, Tenn., has shed 151 pounds in the past year and a half, down from 368 pounds.

“Making exercise part of my life was a major challenge,” Stevens says. But she did it.

Here’s advice — from Stevens and health and fitness experts — to help.

A Turning Point

Stevens had been overweight since high school but had an eye-opening experience while snorkeling in Barbados in May 2009. She couldn’t hoist herself up the ladder into the boat. Two men had to pull her back in.

“It took that kind of shock to the system to really get my attention,” Stevens says.

She joined Weight Watchers online and now weighs 217 pounds – 49 pounds shy of her goal.

Exercise has played a key role in her weight loss success. But, she admits, “It was absolutely terrifying to get started.”

Small Steps Pay Off

Stevens began walking a sixth of a mile around her neighborhood daily. “I was huffing and puffing at the end of it, but I just made myself do it,” she says.

Fearing the thought of walking into a co-ed gym, Stevens first turned to the women-only Curves fitness center franchise. The supportive atmosphere eased her fears. She stayed a year, working out three to five days a week.

In December 2009, Stevens read about The Couch-to-5K Running Plan on a weight loss message board and downloaded the program’s podcast. She began running 60 seconds the first day. After nine weeks, she was able to run 30 minutes daily.

Stevens now works out at a wellness center near her job as director of marketing communications at Wellmont Health System, and has added strength training to her routine. She regularly runs 5Ks. Stevens admits she’s not “a very speedy runner. But I finish, and I’m proud of that.”

Danger: Emotional Hurdles Ahead

Stevens wasn’t alone in her fear of getting started. Mental barriers often hamper obese women’s efforts to get exercise, according to research presented at The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in October 2008.

Researchers at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education studied data from 278 obese and normal-weight women. When it came to exercise, researchers found that the obese women were more likely to say they were self-conscious, afraid of injury, daunted by the effort, and to report minor aches and pains. And they were less likely to be exercising a year later.

Get Support

A key challenge is “getting started and feeling supported,” says Gerald K. Endress, MS, fitness director of the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, N.C. and an American College of Sports Medicine-registered clinical exercise physiologist.

“Most obese people just don’t think they can do anything,” Endress says.

Endress recommends going to your doctor to make sure he or she understands what kind of exercise you’re planning to do.

Stevens did just that. Her doctor’s advice? “Just try. But if there’s pain, you’ve got to listen to your body,” she says.

To stay motivated, it often helps to work with a trainer who has experience with obese people or to go to a wellness center affiliated with a hospital that offers low-impact classes such as chair or water aerobics for special populations.

Endress also recommends recumbent exercise — which is done lying down, such as a recumbent bike or recumbent stepper — because it “supports the back and is easier on the knees and hip joints.”

Easy Does It

People should embark on a fitness program gradually because they may have underlying health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or be prone to shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and overheating.

You can gradually work up to elliptical trainers. The key is to not sign up for a boot camp workout like on television’s The Biggest Loser because that may be too much, too soon.

It’s best to get to the point where you can exercise 30 minutes comfortably three or four times a week before progressing to something more intense. It’s OK to break things up. If you can’t exercise 30 minutes at one time, aim for three 10-minute segments, Endress says.

Dos and Don’ts

Ready to get started? Endress recommends doing the following:

  • Get fitted with good shoes. For instance, running store staff can analyze your gait and make recommendations. “The support makes all the difference,” Endress says.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Chafing is common in the leg and groin area. Shorts and a T-shirt are fine in the pool if you’re self-conscious or can’t find a suit.
  • Include strength training eventually. But to lose weight, focus on aerobic training in the beginning.
  • Consider a monitoring system to track weight, what you eat, and exercise. Many smart phones have applications or you can use online systems. Pedometers are helpful to get you moving.


  • Don’t do high-impact exercise in the beginning. It’s fine to build up to, but jumping in with both feet landing on a hard surface “is usually going to hurt something,” Endress says.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others in your class or gym or let feelings of self-consciousness overwhelm you. When people used to say, “Hey, you’re doing great!” Stevens says she often had the nagging thought, “If I were a thin person, they wouldn’t notice me.”
  • Don’t be impatient. Don’t look for radical change in a short time or get fixated on big weight loss results like on The Biggest Loser. Although such shows can be motivating, they don’t help set realistic expectations. “You see people who lose two pounds in one week and they’re crying,” Endress says.

The key, Endress says, is to “be consistent and do something. There are too many people out there making excuses about why they can’t exercise.”

Stevens agrees. “It’s not easy,” she says. ” All of these things that you have to overcome with the fear of, ‘Am I going to fit in?’ and the self doubt.”

“But it has absolutely been worth it,” Stevens says. “It wasn’t easy weighing 368 pounds.”

Orlando Weight Loss – 10 tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

10 Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

Experts offer advice on navigating the supermarket.
By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

But who has time to read all the food labels and figure out which items are the most nutritious and the best buys? Grocery shopping can be a daunting task, simply because there are so many choices.

“Markets perform a great public service, but keep in mind they are designed to get you to buy (and, therefore, eat) more food, not less,” says Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating.

But with a little guidance, healthy choices are a cinch to find in any supermarket.

Plan Ahead for Success

The process starts even before you head to the grocery store, experts say. Before you set out for the market, plan your meals for the week, and create a list to shop from. It takes a few minutes, but saves time in running back to the store for missing ingredients.

To save money, use coupons, check the weekly grocery ads, and incorporate sale foods into your meal planning. And don’t shop hungry: An empty belly often results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest.

“When planning your grocery list, consult the guidelines of MyPyramid [the government nutrition web site] to make sure you are including all the foods you need for good health,” advises Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids.

To help meet the pyramid guidelines, you should be filling your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, she says.

Most of us tend to eat the same foods over and over again. But variety really is the spice of life, says Ward.

“One of the tenets of the pyramid is variety, so instead of white potatoes, choose sweet potatoes, which are much richer in beta-carotene, or baby spinach instead of iceberg lettuce,” she advises.

Be adventurous; aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, she advises.

Both Ward and Nestle say organic foods are a great option, but note that they may not be the most economical choice.

“You get the same nutritional benefits with fewer pesticides [with organics], but eating plenty of produce is more important than choosing organic foods,” says Ward.

Money Well Spent

Convenience is often worth the extra cost, especially when you’re packing lunches or are trying to control portions. Ward relies on single-serve packages of precut apples and carrot sticks for food to go for her three young daughters.

“Anything that will get you and your family to eat more fruits and vegetables is worth the extra expense, especially when you consider there is no waste associated with washed and prepped produce,” says Ward.

Nestle also recommends splurging in the produce aisle for the best fruits and vegetables.

Supermarket Savvy

Ward offers this checklist for making healthier food choices in every department of your supermarket:

  1. Produce. Spend the most time in the produce section, the first area you encounter in most grocery stores (and usually the largest). Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. The colors reflect the different vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content of each fruit or vegetable.
  2. Breads, Cereals, and Pasta. Choose the least processed foods that are made from whole grains. For example, regular oatmeal is preferable to instant oatmeal. But even instant oatmeal is a whole grain, and a good choice.When choosing whole-grain cereals, aim for at least 4 grams of fiber per serving, and the less sugar, the better. Keep in mind that 1 level teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and let this guide your selections. Ward points out that cereals — even those with added sugar — make great vehicles for milk, yogurt, and/or fruit. Avoid granolas, even the low-fat variety; they tend to have more fat and sugar than other cereals.Bread, pasta, rice, and grains offer more opportunities to work whole grains into your diet. Choose whole-wheat bread and pastas, brown rice, grain mixes, quinoa, bulgur, and barley. To help your family get used to whole grains, you can start out with whole-wheat blends and slowly transition to 100% whole-wheat pasta and breads.
  3. Meat, Fish, and Poultry. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week. Ward recommends salmon because people often like it, and it’s widely available, affordable, not too fishy, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Be sure to choose lean cuts of meat (like round, top sirloin, and tenderloin), opt for skinless poultry, and watch your portion sizes.
  4. Dairy. Dairy foods are an excellent source of bone-building calcium and vitamin D. There are plenty of low-fat and nonfat options to help you get three servings a day, including drinkable and single-serve tube yogurts, and pre-portioned cheeses. If you enjoy higher-fat cheeses, no problem — just keep your portions small.
  5. Frozen Foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables (without sauce) are a convenient way to help fill in the produce gap, especially in winter. Some of Ward’s frozen favorites include whole-grain waffles for snacks or meals, portion-controlled bagels, 100% juices for marinades and beverages, and plain cheese pizza that she jazzes up with an extra dose of skim mozzarella cheese and a variety of veggies.
  6. Canned and Dried Foods. Keep a variety of canned vegetables, fruits, and beans on hand to toss into soups, salads, pasta, or rice dishes. Whenever possible, choose vegetables without added salt, and fruit packed in juice. Tuna packed in water, low-fat soups, nut butters, olive and canola oils, and assorted vinegars should be in every healthy pantry.

4 Simple Shopping Rules

Nestle offers these simple solutions to savvy shopping without spending hours in the grocery store:

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish are usually located. Avoid the center aisles where junk foods lurk.
  • Choose “real” foods, such as 100% fruit juice or 100% whole-grain items with as little processing and as few additives as possible. If you want more salt or sugar, add it yourself.
  • Stay clear of foods with cartoons on the label that are targeted to children. If you don’t want your kids eating junk foods, don’t have them in the house.
  • Avoiding foods that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

How to Become a Calorie Master

Orlando Weight Loss Program – Everyday Fitness

with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

Living life to the fullest is all about striving for a mind-body balance every day. Achieve a mental, nutritional, and physical transformation for life with tips from wellness expert Pamela Peeke, MD.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Become a Calorie Master

“Oh, NO! Don’t make me count calories. Can’t I just eat healthy foods and be OK?” This is one of the frequent responses I get when I mention the importance of knowing how much you’re actually eating each day. I also get the “I’ve done that before. It didn’t get me anywhere and it was such a pain. Just one more thing I’ve got to do.” Since just about everyone’s been on some kind of “diet”, many people feel like they’ve been there and done that with calorie counting. For that matter, it’s almost un-American not to have counted calories at some point in your weight management journey. And presently, some people in the nutrition community even avoid the topic of calories altogether, focusing instead on “healthy eating”. Is calorie counting a throw-back to the dark ages of weight management? Or is it your key to achieving your optimal weight? Do you really have to count calories?

Yep, but with some qualifiers.

Beginners need to take the time to learn how many calories they’re eating. As you achieve success and become more experienced over time, there’s less of a need to count every calorie. So, the great news is that with baseline learning, practice and success, you can one day graduate and become a calorie master. So, for those beginning on your journey, or those who’ve plateaued and want to get back on track, here are some calorie basics to help guide you.

I’m a real advocate of promoting caloric literacy. Most people are clueless about what they’re putting in their mouths. So I’m going to make this easy to understand.

A calorie is a unit of energy. It’s the currency of weight management. There are:

4 calories in every gram of protein

4 calories in every gram of carbohydrate

9 calories in every gram of fat

If you ate some random food that had 10 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of carb, you’d be consuming 170 calories— (10×9) +(10 x 4) + (10 x 4) = 170.

If you’re good with the concept of a financial budget, you’ll be fine with caloric budgets. The way you handle your bank currency is the same as how you’ll manage your calorie currency. This is why I have a problem with people who advocate winging it and thinking they don’t have to have at least some basic understanding of how much they’re eating each day.

Let’s say I give you $500 to go to a department store and purchase an outfit. That’s all the money you get, including tax. You don’t want to go overboard and suffer the embarrassment of being short on cash. So, you’re very vigilant as you enter the store. If you’re a newbie at shopping (and we all were at some point), you’ll have to spend some time learning which parts of the store to avoid and which will have great options for you. First up, when you see the word “couture”, run. That’s a guaranteed five figure dress or suit, so don’t even go there. “Sale” can be good if it’s within your budget. You’ll find yourself flipping price tags to learn which designer or store section is user friendly and won’t burn a hole in your wallet. This is the learning process you must go through to get the gist of how much cash you’re spending.

The same applies to calories. As I said, most folks don’t know how much they’re “spending” when they select foods to eat. And it’s a real eye-opener at time to realize how fast you can eat through your budget. Check out what Gerryca from my Diet Community had to say:

Gerryca posted:


are many articles and books about avoiding having to count calories. But in MY book (LOL) counting those little darlings is the ONLY way to go… WEBMD also has a tracker that I am using, I like the food search. I am drinking at least 48 oz of water a day. I am only 5ft.2. When you count, you will be amazed at how fast you reach your calorie goal.

And here are some words of wisdom from 1961mark:

1961mark posted:

I STARTED OUT AT 284.5 ON 1-11-11.I now weigh 260lbs.2-19-11….I had type 2 diabetes. This material gives you a no nonsense way to count calories… (that i thought i could never do) …THE OVERALL KEY IS EATING FOODS LOW IN CALORIES THAT ALLOW YOU TO EAT MORE FOOD VOLUME WISE. You mentioned oatmeal, how many calories? I eat 2 packets of great value (from Walmart) maple and brown sugar at 100 cal per packet. I sometimes eat a banana 80 cal. Then I take 100% whey protein made by EAS. (one scoop 120 cal.)…that equals 400 calories. Then I work out with weights then I hit the elliptical machine alternating between 50 min. and 65 min per daily workout. (I burn between 653 and 875 calories per session.) My doctor listened to what my present activity level was and determined that my total calorie intake should be 1875 calories. The key to weight loss is getting active so you can burn calories up each day. People always say” eat less than you take in”. No kidding…but get real! If you can identify those foods low in calories but high in nutrients I am sure you know what I mean. I told you all this because I was trapped in my body basically dying a little bit every day due to diabetes and its complications.

So Gerry and Mark, like the newbie shopper, are taking time to check out the calorie “price tags”, learning which foods have “couture calories” and which are safely within your caloric budget. How do you know what that budget looks like? You need the WebMD Food and Fitness Planner.

To help you get started on the path to becoming a calorie master, I want to introduce you to a terrific new tool from WebMD to help guide you.

Click into WebMD’s Food and Fitness Planner and you’ll see that WebMD has gone all out to provide an easy way to find out how many calories you need to consume as well as burn given your weight goal. This is customized to your unique needs and incorporates critical and user friendly information to:

  • Learn about Portions: Prior to entering a food into the food log, a “portion size help” widget is available that helps people visually understand portion sizes so they can log accurately. Most people generally under estimate the amount of food they consume. This portion size helper educates users on what a portion size really looks like.
  • View Your Weekly Summaries: People can quickly assess “how they are doing” for the week, and identify trends which may help them modify their behavior. WebMD has a unique product design which allows the user to quickly and easily view their food and fitness logging for the week where they can assess (a) how well they have stuck to their plan and (b) they can notice trends in their eating habits which may lead to needed behavior change (e.g. The user may not be losing weight – by looking this weekly view they may find that they are consuming the majority of their calories at dinner – and this may be why they aren’t as successful as they had hoped.)
  • Monitor Your Medical Condition: WebMD also has “Condition Trackers” for people who may use their eating plan as a means of helping to manage a health condition (Diabetes, High Cholesterol, Hypertension, and Heart Disease). Most people generally don’t understand the nutritional content of the foods they eat, and how those foods may impact on their medical condition. WebMD’s “Condition Trackers” aim to help educate people about various macronutrients so they can learn to make more informed eating decisions.
  • Learn How to Read Nutrition Labels: WebMD displays Nutrition Facts Labels on all foods and has Nutrition Trackers which deliver personalized messaging to help the user understand how to read a nutrition label to guide them as they their eating decisions. People don’t understand how to read nutrition labels. WebMD’s Nutritional Trackers aim to help users understand how each of the macronutrients impacts their health, and helps them understand if they are taking more or less then what is recommended by the USDA or AHA. Research shows that this would help people better understand how to read a nutrition label, and how to make decisions in the supermarket.
  • Budget Calories In and Calories Out: WebMD allows people to select how they would like to split their calories. For example, options include: “Eat the same amount, but increase fitness”, or “Have a 50/50 split between food and fitness”. All other diet planners do the calculation for the user and only allow them to restrict food calories. Incorporating physical activity into a person’s lifestyle is critical to both shedding weight and maintaining the healthier weight. WebMD users love that they were able to customize their preferred calorie split.

For people who are beginning their weight management journey and are not yet calorically literate, do this two part exercise:

FIRST — Scope Out Your Binge Foods and Beverages: It’s time to face the music. Make a list of those bad boy foods and drinks you tend to over consume. It could be anything, even healthy foods (eg. you like sweet potato but you’re eating 3 of them). Now, just quickly look at the calories you’re consuming with each bender. Whoa! Quite an eye-opener. So wipe the shock off your face when you see smoke coming out of your bathroom scale after a week eating like that. The point is to just know how much you’re “spending” on a typical overeating session. Hopefully, it will make you think twice before you do that again.

SECOND — Scope Out Your Healthy Foods and Beverages: Now, whip out another piece of paper and simply write down the typical foods you’ll be eating on your new plan. Studies show that most people usually rotate the same 10 foods around all week. Write them down and look at the serving sizes and calories attached to them. Now look at your budget and start figuring out how you’ll spend your calories throughout the day. Pair that up with your physical activity and you have your total budget.

Calorie masters had to do this exercise at one point. With months and years of experience, they can tell you by memory how many calories are associated with specific foods. That’s why they don’t have to write it down any longer. However, when new foods come along, the calorie masters will take a moment to look up the calories and register that number in their memories. They’re constantly learning, as you should, too.

Everyone should strive to become a calorie master. Here are the requirements. A calorie master has:

  1. achieved their optimal body composition goal (e.g. which may not be the “ideal” but one that is much healthier and not associated with increased risk for disease or disability);
  2. kept weight stable (e.g. +/- 5 pounds for removal of 40 pounds or less; +/- 10 pounds for removal of 50 pounds or more) no less than one year following the achievement of their body composition goal;
  3. shown the ability to adapt and adjust calorie consumption and burn when “life happens”— new physical disability, medical condition, personal/professional challenge(s), and keeping weight stable (see “2″).

Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss is a safe and effective Program that can help you achieve and maintain your weight loss goals. Call us today and find out how we can help you change your life.

Orlando Weight Loss and the Benefits of Flax Seed

What are the benefits of Flaxseed?

flax-seed-150x150Here at Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss we have always touted the benefits of Flaxseed and other soluble and insoluble fiber. Lately we have been really impressed with a nutritional supplement containing fibrous components such as flax seed, oat bran and wheat bran as well as fruit extracts such as grapefruit, apple, pineapple and orange. Although many of our patients have been reporting praises for the way they have been feeling, we wanted to look at some of the hard facts surrounding flaxseed.

Flaxseed has been around since 3000 BC! According to the Flax Council of Canada, King Charlemange of Babylon required his subjects to eat flaxseed. Even today, many people insist this is a Powerful food and the health benefits cannot be denied. Flax seed is found in many foods today – crackers, waffles, oatmeal, one can simply run a search on the internet to find many products that are now being produced with flaxseed.

There are many healthful component of flaxseed but there are three “stars”;

  1. Omega-3 essential fatty acids – these contain heart – healthy effects. (Alpha linolenic acid – ALA) – ALA is an Omega-3 that is the foundation of fatty acids found in salmon.
  2. Phytochemicals (Lignans) – This is an antioxidant. Lignans promote fertility, reduce Peri-menopausal symptoms and are said to help prevent breast cancer.
  3. Fiber – It is said that flaxseed has HUGE levels of cholesterol lowering fiber. Helping blood sugar and proper functioning of the intestines.

There are specific areas that flax are believed to greatly benefit;

Cancer – breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. The omega -3 fatty acid found in fllaxseed (ALA) has inhibited tumor growth in studies on animals. Lignans my help by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism. It is also believed to interfere with the growth and spread of tumor cells.

Cardiovascular Disease – Plant omega-3s help the anti-inflammatory mechanism and normalize the heartbeat. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure due to the omega-3 and amino acids in flaxseed. Many studies have shown flaxseed helps to prevent hardening of the arteries and fight plaque build up. Eating flaxseed may help your cholesterol levels.

Diabetes – Daily intake of lignans found in flaxseed may help improve blood sugar. (as measured by hemoglobin A1c blood tests in adults with type 2 diabetes)

There are other benefits of flaxseed, including but not limited to reduction of hot-flashes and general feeling of wellness!

Wow, with all of these amazing benefits, it is obvious why we are so attracted to flaxseed here at Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss Program! There are many different ways to make sure you receive flaxseed intake. The most important thing to remember is buy it ground or ground it yourself. Flaxseed, when eaten whole, is more likely to pass through the intestinal tract undigested and your body will miss all of the healthful components. You can add flaxseed to enchalada casserole, chicken parm, chili, beef stew etc. You can sprinkle on yogurt. There are also many receipes to use flaxseed in baking – breads, muffins, rolls etc.

Canadian flaxseed is the best in the world. Visit the Canadian Flax Council at for information and recipe ideas. We have been using a product here at Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss called Nopalina. This nutritional supplement containing fibrous components such as flax seed, oat bran and wheat bran as well as fruit extracts such as grapefruit, apple, pineapple and orange.

Besides the many benefits that you receive from the flax seed and fiber as mentioned above, Nopalina also contributes to weight loss. Fiber makes you feel full faster and for a longer period of time helping dieters avoid overeating. Nopalina also helps regulate your digestive system and this can be especially important for dieters concentrating on High Protein Low Carbohydrate Nutritional Plans.

Visit Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss and pick up a bottle of Nopalina Capsules Today.

Vitamin D and Weight Loss | Greater Orlando Medical Weight Loss

vitamin-D-150x150Could a common nutrient be the antidote to an overweight America? Explore the surprising benefits of a vitamin that’s hiding in plain sight

By Alisa Bowman, Photographs by Kenji Toma

It was supposed to be a routine study.

At the University of Minnesota 2 years ago, Shalamar Sibley, M.D., was examining how calorie reduction might affect hormone pathways. On a hunch, she decided to test one more variable: vitamin D. “Researchers have been tracking the relationship between low vitamin D and obesity,” says Dr. Sibley. “So I wondered if people’s baseline vitamin D levels would predict their ability to lose weight when cutting calories.”

Her hunch paid off—big time. People with adequate vitamin D levels at the start of the study tended to lose more weight than those with low levels, even though everyone reduced their calorie intake equally. In fact, even a minuscule increase in a key D precursor caused the study participants to incinerate an additional half pound of flab.

Dr. Sibley’s study is just the latest indication that vitamin D could be our special ops agent in the war against body fat. “In the past decade, there’s been an explosion of research on vitamin D,” says Anthony Norman, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of California at Riverside. For example, a study at Laval University in Quebec City found that people who consumed more dietary vitamin D had less belly fat than people who ate less.

What’s the big deal about D? It comes from milk and exposure to sunlight, right? Well, not really. Or at least, not enough of it does. More than a third of American men are deficient in the nutrient—even young, healthy men who live in sunny states. And many more American men—over 50 percent—have suboptimal levels.

“Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most commonly unrecognized medical conditions,” says Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine at Boston University medical center and author of The Vitamin D Solution. “And that deficiency negatively affects every cell in your body—including your fat cells.”

Gimme a D! Gimme Another D!

One reason vitamin D has flown under the research radar for so long is because it’s more than just a vitamin—it’s also a hormone, one that plays a role in a remarkable range of body processes. “In the past 20 years, we’ve found D receptors on up to 40 different tissues, including the heart, pancreas, muscles, immune-system cells, and brain,” says Norman. He should know, having discovered the vitamin D receptor on intestinal cells back in 1969. So think of vitamin D as your body’s multitasking marvel: Heart disease? Adequate D might be equal to exercise in its ability to ward off this number one killer of men. Blood pressure? D helps keep it down. Diabetes? Yep, studies show that D can combat this, too. Now add to this list the potential to ward off memory loss, certain cancers (including prostate), and even the common cold, and it should come as no surprise that D may also help solve the riddle of your expanding middle. Here’s the rundown on the many benefits of boosting your vitamin D.

1 You’ll eat less but feel more satisfied.
When you have adequate vitamin D levels, your body releases more leptin, the hormone that conveys a “we’re full, stop eating” message to your brain. Conversely, less D means less leptin and more frequent visits to the line at the Chinese buffet. In fact, an Australian study showed that people who ate a breakfast high in D and calcium (a mineral that works hand in hand with D) blunted their appetites for the next 24 hours. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to insulin resistance, which leads to hunger and overeating, says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California at Davis.

2 You’ll store less fat.
When you have enough D in your bloodstream, fat cells slow their efforts to make and store fat, says Dr. Holick. But when your D is low, levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and a second hormone, calcitrol, rise, and that’s bad: High levels of these hormones turn your body into a fat miser, encouraging it to hoard fat instead of burning it, says Michael B. Zemel, Ph.D., director of the nutrition institute at the University of Tennessee. In fact, a Norwegian study found that elevated PTH levels increased a man’s risk of becoming overweight by 40 percent.

3 You’ll burn more fat—especially belly fat.
Vitamin D can help you lose lard all over, but it’s particularly helpful for the pounds above your belt. Studies at the University of Minnesota and Laval University found that D triggers weight loss primarily in the belly. One explanation: The nutrient may work with calcium to reduce production of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes you to store belly fat, says Zemel.

4 You’ll lose weight—and help your heart.
One of Zemel’s studies found that a diet high in dairy (which means plenty of calcium and vitamin D) helped people lose 70 percent more weight than a diet with the same number of calories but without high levels of those nutrients. What’s more, a German study showed that high levels of vitamin D actually increased the benefits of weight loss, improving cardiovascular risk markers like triglycerides.

Why Not Just Step Outside?

When sunlight hits your skin, your body’s built-in vitamin D factory kicks into operation, producing a form of the nutrient that lasts twice as long in your bloodstream as when you consume it through food or a supplement. The problem, of course, is a little thing called skin cancer: In order to manufacture enough D, you’d need to be in the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. without sunscreen, says Dr. Holick. But even if you could take cancer out of the equation, the amount of sunlight-derived D your body can produce depends on your location. People who live north of the equator probably make only 10 to 20 percent as much D in April as they do in June. And come December, a northerner’s skin can produce hardly any D, says Dr. Holick. Even living in a sunny city is no guarantee of adequate natural D. Air pollution filters UVB rays, so less of them are able to reach your skin. That’s one reason folks who live in Los Angeles and Atlanta tend to be deficient despite their sunny locations.

So Supplements Are the Answer?

Supplementing is a good idea. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recently unveiled a new D recommendation for food and/or supplements: 600 international units (IU) a day. But even that might not be enough. “The Institute of Medicine is extremely cautious,” says the University of California’s Norman. “Its guidelines are based on what it considers good for bone health, but that doesn’t address what’s needed to benefit the immune system, pancreas, muscles, heart, and brain.” Instead, Norman argues that men may need a 1,000 to 2,000 IU supplement plus a D-rich diet. Turns out, this view is shared by a group of experts in all things hormonal: The Endocrine Society recently released a revised recommendation of 1,500 to 2,000 IU a day for good health.

Still, even that elevated recommendation is just a starting point. If you’re overweight (that is, if your body mass index, or BMI, is over 25), you probably need more D. Body fat traps vitamin D in a Georges St-Pierre–style choke hold, preventing it from being used in your body. And the heavier you are, the more D is trapped and the less is available in your bloodstream. According to Dr. Holick, obese people (those with BMIs above 30) require two to five times the vitamin D that lean people need—a dosage that should be monitored by a doctor, of course. It’s less clear how much vitamin D you need if you are overweight but not obese, but somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 IU is a safe bet, says Dr. Holick.

The other problem with trying to ingest all that D from a handful of pills is that you may not reap the fat-burning benefits you were hoping for. “Dietary sources of D usually contain complementary nutrients that also contribute to weight loss,” says Dr. Holick. Bottom line: A supplement is just that.

For More D, Cook This

Superdose yourself with over 1,400 IU by eating this dinner.

Grilled wild salmon, 900 IU
Lightly brush 6-ounce fillets with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Grill them skin side down for about 5 minutes; then flip them and grill until the flesh flakes when you prod the centers with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Dill-yogurt sauce, 30 IU
Serve the salmon with this quick yogurt sauce; a batch serves four. Mix 1 cup of vitamin D– fortified plain yogurt with half a cucumber (grated), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh dill, 1 minced garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste.

Balsamic-glazed mushrooms and onions, 400 IU
You won’t find a lot of vitamin D in most produce—except Monterey Mushrooms, a brand of specialty mushrooms that have been exposed to UVB light. Use them in this easy side: On a baking sheet, toss 3 ounces of sliced mushrooms and ½ cup of sliced onions with olive oil and good-quality balsamic vinegar. Roast at 350°F until the mushrooms are lightly browned and glazed, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with chopped parsley.

And for Dessert…
Berry smoothie, 120 IU
In a blender, puree a handful of berries with a cup of D-fortified yogurt or kefir. Pour into a bowl; top with more berries and add cinnamon, which works along with D to help control blood sugar and insulin response.

Meet the Vitamin D Family

Fatty Fish
You can do better than bland white fish like flounder: Fatty varieties, such as salmon and mackerel, contain up to four times the vitamin D of lean fish. What’s more, these oily options also offer higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids—and omega-3s act in concert with vitamin D to promote weight loss and inhibit cancer-cell growth. “Of course you get the added benefit of appetite-suppressing protein, too,” says Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., a consulting sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Supercharge your D: Pick wild and not farm-raised salmon. A Boston University study found that farmed salmon has just 25 percent of the D of its wild cousins. Wild salmon derive their D from eating nutrient-rich plankton; farmed fish eat feed pellets, which are low in D.

Most milk products boast calcium as well as vitamin D, and you’ve already read about how calcium helps reduce levels of fat-storage hormones. Dairy is also rich in the amino acid leucine, which helps stimulate muscle growth and fat burning. The D and leucine may be why dairy sources of calcium are twice as effective as calcium supplements at promoting weight loss, says Zemel.

Supercharge your D: Choose D-fortified dairy products. All milk is fortified with 100 IU of vitamin D per serving, but yogurt and other dairy foods are hit or miss. Some yogurt brands are fortified with as much as 30 percent of the daily value per 6-ounce serving, while others aren’t fortified at all. This is also true of cereal, orange juice, and other fortified foods. Check labels to make the best choices.

Like fatty fish, eggs contain omega-3s and protein as well as vitamin D. Small wonder that eating an egg at breakfast while reducing calories can improve weight loss by 65 percent and reduce appetite throughout the day, according to two Saint Louis University studies.

Supercharge your D: Pick omega-enriched eggs, not conventional eggs. Eggland’s Best eggs, for example, are higher in omega-3s and also contain double the D.

Are You D-ficient?

If any of the following describes you, you might be deficient in vitamin D. To find out for sure, ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. You want to clock in above 40 nanograms per milliliter.

You’re in middle age or older.
The older you are, the harder it is for your skin to make D. In a Boston University study, 36 percent of men and women under age 30 were D deficient by the end of winter. That rate jumped to 42 percent for people over 50.

You’re a person of color.
The melanin pigment in your skin acts as a natural sunscreen, helping block UVB rays. The darker your skin (or the deeper your tan), the higher your natural SPF and the more sunlight your skin requires to make D.

Your body mass index is over 30.
Being obese increases your vitamin D needs by two to five times. Calculate your body mass index at Have a BMI over 30 but don’t think you’re fat? Ask for a skin fold test at your gym.

You’re a northerner.
Imagine a line running from Los Angeles to Atlanta and then to the Atlantic coast. If you live north of that line, there’s not enough sunlight for your skin to make adequate D between November and March, says Dr. Holick.

The Importance of Food Journals and Weight Loss

food-journal-150x150Are you ready to lose weight Orlando? Of course you are, and we are here to help with the latest in weight management information to help you make informed decisions about your weight loss programs. Perhaps the most important component for a successful weight loss program, outside of making correct diet and exercise an every day habit, is actually recording the details of that diet and exercise, so you can remember what you did the following day!

One of the main reasons that people do not ascertain the improvements that they deserve in their weight management programs is not for lack of effort. It is the fact that in our busy lives, we often do not have the time to keep up with actual progress. So on Thursday, you probably will not remember that on the Wednesday workout you dropped and gave them 30 and ran for 15 minutes on the treadmill. So on Thursday, you only give 25 push ups and run for 10 minutes. Your body is not pushed as it should be, and maximum results are not achieved.

Things that are written down are more quickly remembered and improved upon. Taking the analogy of the exercise program a little further, if compared to your working environment, when the boss tells you to remember something, you immediately put it into your Blackberry, set the alarm to remind you of it an hour earlier, and when you get home, tell your significant other to help you remember it as well. Your health is the most important thing to maintain in your life. Is it not worth investing in a 50 cent notebook and a pen (if not a Blackberry note)?

Granted, no one wants to see weight loss as work, but the fact is, no pain, no gain. And in the interest of your health, we must review weight loss in general for a moment. In order to gain the most from your weight loss program, make sure to follow these tips:

You must eat more, not less. Yes, you heard correctly. The way to sustained weight loss is to eat 6 small meals a day instead of denying yourself, which only induces gorging and overeating upon the onset of mealtime. The trick is to make those small meals healthy snacks, consisting of raw vegetables and fruits, plenty of grains, and natural foods free of preservatives. Wake up a few minutes earlier and pack yourself a couple of apples or bananas before work in the morning. Eating like this will speed up your metabolism to the point where your body will actually help you in your weight loss efforts instead of becoming a hindrance. You will feel hungry less often, and when presented with a meal, you will eat less. Also, try to observe the governmental suggestion for water intake. It changes often, and often seems excessive (it is currently 12 glasses a day). However, water keeps the appetite down, and cleanses the system as well. You can lose from 5 to 10 pounds by simply removing from the digestive tract foods that were unable to be digested. Raw vegetables are also incredibly good at exercising the digestive tract. Think of them as push-ups for your intestines.
Surprise your body in your exercise routines. If you do the same thing over and over when exercising, the body will become used to the routine, and weight loss will gradually taper out. Long term weight loss programs tend to fail not because they do not work, but because they only work for a while. To sustain weight loss, change up high impact workouts which exercise the heart with longer, low impact workouts that burn fat. Each workout needs the other in order to maximize the effect. High impact workouts help low impact workouts by inducing the heart to burn carbohydrates more quickly, so that low impact workouts may more quickly burn fat.

The Orlando weight loss clinic industry is specifically noteworthy for offering a plethora of programs for weight loss. The greater Orlando medical weight loss programs are some of the biggest in the nation. However, this only means that it is harder to find an Orlando weight loss program that truly works. Any Orlando weight loss program that does not administer exercise and food journals is not up to speed with current practices, and should be passed over for an Orlando weight loss clinic that does.

The greater Orlando medical weight loss program you choose should have a food journal component that helps you keep up with calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, saturated fats, and vitamin intake. The timing of meals and calories taken at certain periods of the day is also important. The body naturally feels more hungry at certain times of the day, and part of the responsibility of the food journal is to help the client note these patterns and consciously address them.

A bit of healthy guilt as well as writing down accomplishments in the food journal can provide an incredible amount of motivation to continue on the right path or change immediately the wrong actions keeping a weight loss program stagnant. The best food journals not only contain spaces for personal goals, daily statistics, and daily targets, but also a space for photos, so a weight loss client can visually monitor his or her progress.

Monitor your height, weight, body mass index, cholesterol level, and body measurements on a daily basis. This will let you know how your body loses weight, and if you are aiming to reshape a specific body part, you can more accurately predict how much time it will take. Also, monitor your caloric intake until you are able to keep your intake below output consistently.

Be sure to contact your physician before making any significant changes in your diet or exercise programs. Another great reason to keep a consistent and accurate food journal — it will make the job of your doctor that much easier.

Let’s lose weight Orlando!