Carol was 40 when she came to see me. She was 5’4” and weighed 245 lbs. She had gained a lot of weight with her three pregnancies and was never able to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight of 150. She wanted a program that would allow slow, gradual weight loss, help boost her energy level and provide a healthy eating program for her whole family, who were all overweight.
Carol worked long hours and commuted to a major corporation daily. She usually left in the morning with just a cup of coffee or tea, grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and had a fast food dinner because she had no time to cook. Her husband usually brought in pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Burger King nightly and she cooked a little bit on the week-ends. She also noshed on the candy, chips and ice cream that were in the house and drank soda and alcohol occasionally.
Carol went to the gym at work sporadically where she did 20 minutes of cardio fitness. On week-ends Carol was usually busy with family obligations and chores and did not exercise.
In addition to help with weight loss, Carol wanted to improve her allergy symptoms and frequent sinus and yeast infections. She did not like taking supplements and was just taking a one-a-day multiple.
Carol’s case was an example of someone headed straight towards Syndrome X. She had a family history of diabetes and heart disease and she was already obese. If she continued on her current path she most likely would be prone to disease in the near future.
It was challenging treating Carol, as well as many people like her, who work long hours and do not have a lot of time to prepare meals. In addition, Carol’s husband consistently brought junk food into the house which was hard for her to resist.
During our first meeting I suggested that Carol make a few changes that she could control. I suggested she eat a balanced breakfast in the morning to boost her metabolism and help burn calories throughout the day. According to the March, 2004 Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter,” eating breakfast may curb overeating at night. In a study of 900 women and men, they found that eating a given number of calories earlier in the day proves more satiating than the same number of calories consumed later. In other words, by eating more at breakfast, the people in the study consumed fewer total calories for the day.
For breakfast, I recommended Carol pick something easy to grab that she could take to work such as a slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter, a hard boiled egg with a slice of high fiber bread, one cup of plain yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit and ¼ cup almonds, or a protein drink with protein powder and organic skim or soy milk.
Since Carol consumed few vegetables throughout the day, I suggested she take advantage of her company salad bar at lunch and have a variety of vegetables or mixed greens with either chicken, turkey, beans, nuts, egg or low-fat cheese on top. I recommended that Carol reduce her daily intake of starches. Lunch was a good meal to avoid them since there were a lot of other alternatives available.
For snacks, Carol kept trail mix and fruit at work so she wouldn’t be tempted by the candy and chips that were easily accessible.
Carol’s biggest challenge was what to eat for dinner during the week. She decided to buy a George Forman grill TM and cook chicken, fish or low-fat meat and sauté vegetables on the side using a non-stick pan. It only took 30 minutes to prepare a healthy dinner this way.
She still consumed fast food with her family several times a week, but tried to choose the healthiest choices available.
For exercise, Carol began walking at night several times a week and going to the gym at work more consistently. She was now going on the treadmill or stair machine for 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and working out with a personal trainer two times per week.
Carol was resistant to taking a lot of vitamins, but I was able to recommend several that I thought were crucial to her weight loss success. She started taking L-Carnitine to burn fat more effectively and a formula called Glucose Regulation Complex* with chromium*, vanadium*, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid*, taurine* and zinc to help balance blood sugar and prevent sugar and carbohydrate cravings. I also recommended Vitamin C and garlic to help with Carol’s allergies, sinus and yeast infections. Garlic is a natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal herb.
Over six months Carol lost 50 lbs. Her greatest success was in the first 3 months. Over the Christmas holidays she found it difficult to resist the abundance of candy and cookies available and gained back some weight. She got a fresh start in February, though, and lost an additional ten lbs.
One of Carol’s greatest achievements was that she was slowly changing the eating habits of her family, who were all overweight. The night-time walks became a family affair and everyone in the house ate more fruits, vegetables and less refined carbohydrates, sugar and fat.
As Carol lost weight, ate healthier and consistently exercised she felt better overall. She reported less moodiness and fatigue and some improvement in her allergy symptoms. Eating less sugar and wheat products as well as taking the supplements mentioned above, Carol greatly reduced her sinus and yeast infections.
Carol’s Makeover: Before
Diet: Ate on the run. Did not have breakfast. Ate fast food for dinner most nights. Noshed during the day on candy, chips and ice cream. Drank coffee, soda and alcohol regularly.
Weight/Cholesterol: Carol’s starting weight was 245, height 5’4, BMI =42.
Supplements: Carol was taking a one-a-day multiple vitamin to start.
Exercise: Carol went to her company gym sporadically where she did some cardio-fitness. She had joint problems and found it hard to do too much.
Stress Mgt. & Self-Care: Carol was under a huge amount of stress. She was the primary bread winner for her family and didn’t really like her job. Her children were difficult and she had a strained relationship with her husband. She was anxious and cried easily. Carol was seeing a psychotherapist but was not doing any stress management or self-care techniques.
Carol’s Makeover: After
Diet: Balanced meal plan using 40/30/30 principles to keep her blood sugar steady and energy up. Carol now eats a healthy breakfast every day. Most carbohydrates consumed are low glycemic and high fiber. Portion sizes are moderate for grains and protein. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and protein now make up the majority of Carol’s diet. Carol still eats fast food, but limits herself to salads and grilled chicken. She snacks on nuts and fruit.
Weight/BMI: Carol’s weight was reduced to 187 after six months, BMI = 32.
Supplements: Carol started on a multiple vitamin and a B-complex to help with her sugar cravings and stress. She added L-Carnitine and Vitamin C and garlic to help with her sinus and yeast infections.
Exercise: Carol got serious about exercise and went to her company gym two to three times a week. She was able to do 20-30 minutes of cardio exercise and some strength and conditioning exercises. This improved her energy, stress level, and helped her to burn more calories and fat.
Stress Mgt. & Self-Care: I encouraged Carol to keep a journal to record her feelings and daily frustrations, to address what she could change and accept what she could not. I also taught her some breathing techniques that she could use any where at any time to feel more relaxed. When I last saw her she was headed to a spa for a week-end by herself!