Archive for the ‘Weight Management’ Category


Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

You know how sometimes your perception of what you see isn’t exactly what was INTENDED for you to see (or think. or believe.)? I find this to be particularly true in food marketing, where labelling language in the form of subtle wording slights, omissions or assumptions often purports an item to be “a healthier choice”, when in reality, it simply isn’t . Either that, or the actual food item is a far cry from what was insinuated on the packaging.

Case in point.

My nutrition clients are busy. They’re travelling, on the go, and don’t have much extra time, so we often brainstorm ideas for nutritious, delicious, energy-sustaining, pack-along snacks.

Recently, a client recounted a variety of snack choices consumed during a weekend of travelling, and one particular choice repeatedly popped up; “SkinnyPop”. SkinnyPop

I’ve had a number of clients rave about this popcorn treat, how it’s “healthy”, and a “better-choice snack”. They find the term “skinny” particularly appealing, and more than a few have mentioned that it’s “addictive, like crack”.

I had to learn exactly what about this treat was so darn “skinny”, and why it seemed to have such a hold on my clients.

After reading the “SkinnyPop”website, I literally sat shaking my head in wonder. The “skinny” in “SkinnyPop”? NOTHING to do with calories or fat, and EVERYTHING to do with ingredients.

From the website:

What makes SkinnyPop “skinny”? Do you remember old-fashioned, buttered popcorn? Like the popcorn you can still get at movie theatres? We do. In fact, we used to make it. It was heavy on buttery topping and other artificial flavors. Our fans asked us for something with less topping, but with that same great taste, and we came up with SkinnyPop – skinny on ingredients!

That’s it?? Fewer ingredients?

If I conducted a random poll on what comes to mind if I said “SkinnyPop”, I think LESS CALORIES | LESS FAT | NON-FATTENING | EAT WITH RECKLESS ABANDON is what most people would think, not “fewer ingredients”.

And the skinny ingredients in “SkinnyPop”? Popcorn, sunflower oil, salt.

Nothing special. Nothing surprising. Nothing you don’t have in your own kitchen.

Nutritional breakdown?

  • 1 cup “SkinnyPop” Original Flavor – 40 calories | 2.6 g fat | .8 g fiber
  • 1 cup popcorn popped in oil – 55 calories | 3 g fat | 1.1 g fiber

In terms of calories and fat, there is essentially no difference. “SkinnyPop” comes in 4 flavors; original, black pepper, white cheddar and naturally sweet. Serving size for original and black pepper is 3.75 cups, but 3.5 cups for white cheddar and naturally sweet. A smaller serving size yields a lower calorie and fat amount closer to the original/plain version – even with the addition of ingredients that bump up calories and fat.


Personally, I’m a HUGE fan of popcorn. I like to pop my own on the stove top, in a combination of olive and coconut oils or plain canola oil, then sprinkle with sea salt, and if I’ve a taste for it, nutritional yeast.

Popcorn is a whole grain, naturally low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. There is one piece of literature that received quite a bit of press a number of years ago, suggesting that popcorn is high in polyphenols (a type of antioxidant), yet a literature search in reliable, credible PubMed turned up no other such research.

Regardless, popcorn does have an overall healthy profile, and I definitely recommend it as a filling, nutritious snack; just remember to pay attention to the amount of butter, cheese, or caramel you douse it in – completely changes the landscape, if you know what I mean. And if you have diabetes, 3 cups of popcorn equals 1 carbohydrate serving (whether it’s “SkinnyPop” or not!).

If you choose to skip the oil, this looks like an interesting way to air-pop popcorn I advise you avoid microwave popcorn completely – neither the ingredients nor the packaging are good for your health.

The take-away? When it comes to food manufacturing and marketing, it pays to dig a little deeper to learn the true meaning behind the hype. And as for “addictive, like crack”? I’ve never tasted it, so I welcome your comments and experiences!



“True or False? 3,500 Calories = 1 Pound”.

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Vienna ScaleUp until very recently, I would have said absolutely, unequivocally, emphatically true.

Except now, it absolutely, unequivocally, emphatically isn’t. At least for the time being.

Darn that pesky science. It changes.

Since becoming a dietitian, I have counseled hundreds of clients on weight loss, and consistently used the “3,500 calories equals one pound” that I learned when pursuing my nutrition degree. It’s one of many tools that I use, and a good, reliable one; with thousands of citations in the scientific literature and lay press to back it up, how could it not be?

Yet even with tailoring the nutrition education and approach to match individual needs, outcomes have varied – as have the genetic profiles, habits and histories of those clients. For clients who apply the education and information in an effort to change habits, weight loss occurs, though rarely consistently, and almost never in any sort of predictable pattern. There are times when the 3,500 calorie guideline doesn’t appear to match results, either upward or downward on the scale.

For clients who struggle to reach their goals by applying the education and information, more often than not the psychological workings of food and fitness tend to figure prominently, and when mixed with the physiologic complexity, the sheer amount of sustained effort required to reach a lower weight goal is huge. Not impossible. Just huge.

The mechanism of LONG-TERM, SUSTAINED weight loss (and body composition redistribution) is physiologically complex. Rarely is it as simple as calories in/calories out; although at the end of the day, that’s a pretty hard and fast guideline to start with. Many people have experienced the “eat less, move more” phenomenon, where upon reducing the amount of food eaten on a daily basis and increasing the amount of exercise, weight is lost, clothes fit better, and energy increases. It works.

Then, of course, there are any number of “canned” approaches to weight loss, complete with radical before and after photos, one-size-fits-all-do-eat/don’t-eat food lists and meal plans, rigorous powdered drink and supplement regimens to be followed, and meal timing guidelines and grueling workouts that most people are simply unable to maintain for the long haul. That works, too.

So given that seemingly most everything we do works on SOME level, why kick the poor, now erroneous “3,500 calories equals one pound of body weight guideline” to the curb?

A tiny bit of background. . . .

The September 1958 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included a report by Max Wishnofsky, MD titled, “Caloric Equivalents of Gained or Lost Weight”. After analyzing the existing literature, Dr. Wishnofsky stated, “The conclusion can be drawn that 3,500 is the caloric value of one pound of body weight lost”. (1)

Dr. Wishnofsky came to his conclusion based on the limited body of weight loss and metabolic literature available in 1958, which didn’t come close to what we know now. Yet although we still know surprisingly little, it’s not the CONCEPT that’s inaccurate, it’s the exact NUMBER that’s problematic. Fairly accurate methods of determining predicted weight loss do exist (here are some simplified formulas; and, yet these methods involve thermodynamics, mathematics, physics and chemistry (2) – complexity that dissuades us from hanging exact weight loss outcomes as we have for years, on simply one little number. Looking at it another way, 3,500 is no longer a reliable objective measure.

As for explaining some of that physiologic complexity? Here are a few examples. When you consider that weight loss over time is difficult to measure in a well-controlled metabolic ward (where subjects’ diets are monitored carefully, and blood, urine, and fecal samples are collected – the ONLY way to accurately measure energy balance), or that carbs, protein and fat caloric equivalents don’t accurately reflect the calories produced by INDIVIDUALS from these macronutrients (gut flora, for instance, is an influencing factor on caloric burn), and that exercise can produce wide variations in body weight response among individuals (yes, some people actually GAIN weight with exercise), it’s easy to see how there is more to predicting weight loss than initially thought. (3)

Stay tuned, as the quest for the ultimate answer to our nation’s obesity epidemic continues. In the meantime, I’m no longer using the 3,500 guideline, rather I’ll continue to work individually to apply sustainable practices to nutrition and fitness habits, lifestyles, work and travel schedules, and to educate on the foundations of nutritional and psychological knowledge that I know are solid.

Like these: Eat REAL food. Listen to your body’s hunger/fullness signals. Take a walk.



  1. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  3. Today’s Dietitian.



Drop Gluten, Drop Weight?

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Is going gluten-free all it’s cracked up to be?

If you suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the short answer is yes.

And that still holds true for those with a definitive diagnosis of celiac. But just last week, new research out of Monash University in Australia called into question whether non-celiac gluten sensitivity even exists (Gluten Sensitivity and Study Replication).

In 2011, an experiment at Monash was instrumental in coining the term “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” as a way to describe the gastrointestinal distress experienced after eating gluten-containing foods in people without celiac disease.

This recent study cycled self-identified gluten-sensitive participants through high, low and no-gluten diets. In the end, ALL of the diets triggered some level of discomfort, regardless of whether the diet contained gluten or not, leaving the researchers to postulate that gluten may not be the culprit in the participant’s GI discomfort.

Interesting, you say, but what does this have to do with weight loss?

First, let’s be clear. True celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder. It must be managed for life with a gluten-free diet consisting mostly of naturally gluten-free whole foods including fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, fish, and lean meats; the same healthy diet recommendations made for those without celiac.

The gluten-free “craze” however, leads consumers to believe that eliminating gluten-containing foods or eating (expensive) “gluten-free” products results in weight loss (read any popular celebrity magazine/blog. . .you’ll see what I mean).

For example, according to independent research firm Mintel, 27% of Americans specifically choose gluten-free foods as a way to help them lose weight.

For those struggling with eating disorders, citing a gluten allergy or intolerance is viewed as a valid way to skip meals (where non-gluten items aren’t available), or eliminate certain foods from the diet altogether – behaviors that fuel the eating disorder.

I’m all about helping people nutritionally manage medical conditions; it’s what I love to do. But at the end of the day, here’s the honest truth.

There is no magic food, pill or potion that will help you lose weight and keep it off.




You’ve gotta make the commitment.

Now, what will it take to make that combo non-negotiable for you?

Not sure? NutriFit can help.

Call 630.469.6548 today to schedule a  consultation. You’ll learn just how easy “non-negotiable” can be.



Beyond “Super-Size” Me.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I recently visited family in another city and dined at an Italian restaurant. Now, I’ve been to Italy; twice. I know a bit about Italian food, the focus on and pride in local ingredients, the communal spirit that embraces family and/or friends who share a meal, and how unbelievably fresh and healthy the food can be.

But any hope I had that this restaurant might follow the true tradition of Italian food was lost when I read this description of one particular dish on their menu, “Sausage, meatballs, pepper and mushrooms in a rich marinara over penne pasta and baked with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. You eat it all and receive a Free _____ Tee Shirt!” Seriously?! Come on, there isn’t a restaurant in the entire country of Italy that would offer someone a free tee shirt in exchange for hedonistic gluttony.

I’ve intentionally removed the restaurant’s name, as my goal is not to bash the place. But even if it were, I somehow doubt it would matter much; the place was packed with diners who appeared completely nonplussed at the sheer volume of food they gleefully gobbled off groaning plates.

Here’s the crazy part. One of the diners in my party (yes, a family member for heaven’s sake) ordered that exact dish. In their defense (this person shall remain nameless), the “orderer” was not expecting what showed up and they most certainly didn’t come anywhere close to “eating it all”.

Now, considering my profession, some people who dine at the same table as me get a little “confessional” about their meal choices. I always remind them that I’m not the food police, and please, how fun is it for me to be labeled that unfairly?? Well, the same held true in this situation. Really, what would I even say?

But I did take a photo – and warned my fellow diner that they’d never know where the pic might show up! And here it is, albeit a little blurry, for your viewing pleasure.


Afterward, what remained was packed up and taken home to serve as a meal for two the following evening. And even after THAT there was enough left that it could be packed into a freezer container for later – yikes! Thoughts?