Surprising Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight with Exercise

Does this sound familiar? You rely on exercise to work off the calories in that second margarita, the large handfuls of tortilla chips you nibble nightly in front of the TV, or the pint of ice cream you pick at while standing at the kitchen counter, but you’re not losing any weight and you may even be gaining some.  Truth be told, most of us can’t count on exercise to completely counteract calorie overload. Don’t throw in the towel just yet, however. Here’s how to adjust your attitude about physical activity to get better results on the scale.


Problem: You give exercise too much credit.  Weight control is a balancing act, and exercise probably doesn’t burn as many calories as you think. When you feel entitled to splurge because you’ve worked out, think about this: it can take less than a minute to eat back the calories burned on a 30-minute run or in a 45-minute tabata class.

Solution: Learn what you burn. I’m not a big fan of calculating calories in (as food) and out (as physical activity) because weight control is more complicated than that. I don’t agree with tactics like listing on food labels how much physical activity you need to burn the calories in a portion of that food because it makes exercise seem like punishment for eating. In January 2016, Britain’s Royal Society for Public Health introduced that idea. (See examples in the photo below).

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But I digress.

It probably pays to educate yourself about how many calories you’re using up through movement, just to get an idea.  According to the American Cancer Society’s Exercise Counts Calculator, a 150-pound person burns about 150 calories walking briskly for 30 minutes. That’s about the same number of calories found in 6 ounces of white wine, or 5 chocolate creme sandwich cookies, or about 1/2 cup of soft serve vanilla frozen yogurt.

New study shows how exercise alters gut health for the better

Problem: You work out too hard. When I was much younger, I ran a lot more than I do now, used exercise as justification to eat more than I should have, and was always perplexed that I didn’t weigh less (duh!).  Research suggests what I already know through experience: intense exercise can counteract weight control efforts. It may overstimulate your appetite, and lead you to believe that you can reward yourself with extra food. Ironically, you may also move around less during the day when you push yourself too hard at the gym, which decreases overall calorie burn.


Solution: Take it down a notch. Find activities that raise your heart rate but not your appetite, such as brisk walking, kickboxing, and shorter runs.  Include at least two weekly sessions of resistance training, such as weight lifting, to preserve and build muscle, which burns more calories than fat tissue. Generally speaking, resistance training probably won’t make you ravenous.

Research suggests that eating less probably has a greater effect than exercise alone on your weight. However, eating less plus exercise probably works better for weight control than just cutting calories.  The real beauty of exercise is that everyone can benefit from it, no matter how much they weigh. Of all the lifestyle habits to develop and maintain, regular exercise is one of the best, if only because it reduces the risk for 13 types of cancer.  It’s never too late to benefit from adding exercise to your routine, and it may help you live longer, and better.








3 Cringe-Worthy Nutrition Terms I Avoid

Warning: Rant ahead.  Anyone who knows me knows how salty my language can get, including my kids, who are old enough to hear bad language from their parents.  I may curse in front of my children without a second thought, but there are certain cringe-worthy nutrition terms I will not say. Here’s where I draw the line, and why.


The F-Word

For me “fat” is a word to avoid unless it’s used to describe the nutrient itself or the cells in your body that store energy. Fat should never be used as an adjective to characterize someone’s appearance, including your own. Even if you don’t say fat, you may think it’s fine to complain or joke about your “thunder thighs” or your “muffin top” in front of your child without influencing their perception of their own body, but that’s probably not the case.

I avoid the F-word because I heard my mother refer to herself as fat one too many times during my childhood.  My mom struggled with her weight, and she was on and off diets for as long as I can remember. She got down on herself about putting on pounds, and was equally elated when they peeled off on the latest low-calorie fad.

While my mom never commented on my weight, her dissatisfaction with her own rubbed off on me.  To make matters worse, I inherited a slower-than-molasses metabolism, and was heavier than I wanted to be in my younger days. I dieted plenty before deciding to be done with all that in my early twenties and to focus on eating healthier on a daily basis.


This word really gets my goat. It’s often used as a compliment but it can also be used to shame someone who is on the thin side, especially by those who would like to lose weight. Some people are naturally slim because that’s their body type. While many people crave the label, thin people may find it insulting.


I can’t even think of an instance where I would say the s-word, yet skinny has such appeal that it’s prominent in the titles of nutrition books and web sites, many of them written by credible experts.  It really bothers me that skinny is used as an aspirational term, because going for “skinny” can be detrimental to a healthy body image. In addition, being waif-like in appearance doesn’t automatically guaruntee good health.

Clean Eating 

I ask my children to clean the kitchen, the bathroom, and their bedrooms, but there is no way that I would ever ask them to eat clean. I won’t even talk about clean eating unless pressed to describe what it is.

To be fair, the basic principles of clean eating are admirable: consume fewer processed foods and more whole foods and lightly processed fare.  But, as with most eating plans, many people have taken the concept of eating “clean” too far.


I can’t get past the notion that if you’re not eating “clean,” then you’re eating “dirty.” I also get the idea that some die-hard “clean” eaters look down on those who can’t, or don’t want to, eat the same way because it’s too costly, it’s inconvenient, or they’re just not interested.

I want my children to see food as fuel to keep their body and brain strong and healthy. What words or terms do you avoid saying in front of young children and teens?




Why Walking Is Good Exercise


The other day, I heard an exercise instructor say that walking isn’t really exercise, and it upset me. There’s no reason to disregard any form of physical activity as not “difficult enough.” Working out doesn’t have to be extreme to be beneficial, and walking is worthy of attention for many reasons.

As it turns out, putting one foot in front of the other is harder work than previously thought. A 2016 study shows that walking burns more calories than experts have presumed for decades. I’ll remember that when I’m walking the dog. I log at least 10 miles a week because she needs exercise every day, and it’s tough to resist that face when she’s staring at me, waiting to go!  DSC_0036

In addition to burning calories, which may mean easier weight control, walking has other benefits, including making your brain bigger.  Brains shrink with age, which is not good news for memory, judgement, and coordination.  Research from the UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh links any type of aerobic exercise, including walking, to a better brain structure and reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

How exercise alters gut health for the better

I don’t know if my brain is expanding when I walk the dog every day, but I do know that it gets me out of the house and away from my desk, and that the rhythmic motion of walking reduces my stress and clears my mind. There is evidence that walking in nature changes your brain for the better.

I love to walk, and there’s no doubt that it’s good exercise. If you haven’t been working out lately, walking is a step in the right direction. If you’ve been doing the same loop for a while, here’s how to take your walking up a notch to make it more challenging.  For good measure, do at least two sessions of resistance training, such as a weights or bands class, each week in addition to walking, to keep your entire body strong.

Now, where are my sneakers?

5 Ways to “Fall” into Healthier Habits


It’s September. Do you know where your New Year’s resolutions are? By now, most people have given up on hopes of improving their health habits for 2016.  But there’s still time. Labor Day has come and gone, and Fall is in the air.  Take advantage of the cooler temperatures and a return to routine to refresh your vows to eat better, exercise more, and get enough sleep.


Autumn is an energizing time of year to “fall” into a healthier routine. 

Think better, not perfect.  Old habits die hard, and new ones are tough to establish.  It’s really no wonder you haven’t been able to work out every day, snack on nuts or fruit instead of chips, and get eight hours of sleep, especially if you’re trying to do all of them at once (see below).  Focus on partial success instead of perfection. For example, exercising two times a week is better than none, and it’s a step in the right direction that could lead to more physical activity.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Change requires mental energy, also called  willpower, and you only have so much of that to go around. Trying to change too many behaviors at the same time eats away at your resolve and makes you want to give up. Pick one new healthy habit to focus on. Research shows that cultivating one healthy habit leads to other healthy habits.

Stay positive.  Whatever you choose to change, make your goal inclusive. For example, instead of promising you’ll cut out all cookies, cake, and ice cream, focus on including five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  No food is completely off limits, but you may be too full of produce to eat the higher-calorie kinds that offer little in the way of nutrition.

Make mini-goals. Back in January, you thought big, like vowing to lose 25 pounds this year.  It’s OK to want to lose that much weight, but you may want to re-think your tactics.  For example, take baby steps to get what you want. Try to lose just five pounds for now, then think about losing five more.

Never give up trying to do better. You are a work in progress! Perfection is out of the question and completely unnecessary.  You may not be where you want to be right now with your lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. There’s always more time to do better.



Healthier Walnut Raisin Bread

Summer is winding down, the days are getting cooler, and I’m heading back into the kitchen to bake. Quick breads are one of my weaknesses, so I go for great-tasting recipes that include as much nutritional goodness as possible. I’ve goofed by cutting back too much on one ingredient or another, or by making too many changes to the recipe at once. I think this healthier Walnut Raisin Bread gets it just right!


Applesauce stands in for some of the oil, but not all of it, and adds flavor, too. Raisins provide fiber, and natural sweetness that helps to cut down on added sugar. Walnuts serve up heart-healthy unsaturated fat.  To increase the whole grain content, I used some whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour and added oats.

Making muffins from the batter instead of baking two loaves of bread is a better way for to control quick bread portions.  Muffins keep me from going overboard because I limit myself (nearly always!) to one.



I hope you enjoy this recipe as much I do!

Walnut Raisin Bread

Makes 2 loaves (24 slices or 24 muffins)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup one-minute oats, uncooked

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup California raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

½ cup 1% low-fat milk

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, oatmeal, brown sugar, raisins, and walnuts. Stir until well combined.

Place the applesauce, canola oil, eggs, and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend on high speed until combined, about 1 minute.

Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill the loaf pans with the batter, dividing it evenly between the 2 pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Per slice or muffin:

226 calories

11 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat)

227 milligrams sodium

30 grams carbohydrate

2 grams fiber

4 grams protein



How Much Added Sugar is OK to Eat?


Confused about how much sugar is OK to eat? Here’s how to understand the suggested limits on added sugar intake, how the new Nutrition Facts panel on food labels will help you track added sugar, and how to cut back on added sugar without feeling deprived of the sweet stuff.

What You Should Know About Added Sugar 

I like sugar as much as the next person, and possibly more, but I’m happy that experts suggested a daily limit on added sugar in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).  Added sugar contributes unnecessary calories, and an excess amount in the diet is linked to several health problems.

There’s no need for most people to go completely sugar-free, however.  The DGA recommendation is for added sugar, not the natural sugar found in foods such as fruit, fruit juice, vegetables, and plain dairy foods (called lactose). People with diabetes should monitor all types of carbohydrate intake, including natural and added sugars.


Added sugar can be part of a healthy diet, but when you limit foods with added sugar, such as soda and other sugary drinks, you make room for more nutrient-rich food choices. For example, sipping low-fat milk instead of a soda helps to satisfy protein, calcium, and vitamin D requirements. Choosing fruit instead of cookies supplies you with more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are protective plant compounds.

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread 

How Much Added Sugar Is OK for You?

Added sugar limits are tied to calorie intake, so they vary from person to person. That’s why young children with lower calorie needs are “allowed” less added sugar than active teen boys, for example. (See Figuring Your Daily Sugar Allowance, below.) Speaking of children, Registered Dietitian Jill Castle’s blog about the added sugar recommendations includes a useful chart for a range of calorie intakes for kids and other great information.

First, find out how many calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight here. Then, do the math to figure your daily added sugar limit. Many adults need about 2,000 calories a day.

Here’s an example using a 2,000 calorie/day eating plan:

• Figure the number of sugar calories allowed: 2,000 calories daily multiplied by .10 (10%) of calories as sugar daily = 200 calories of sugar daily

• Find your sugar allowance in grams: 200 divided by 4 (there are 4 calories in each gram of sugar) equals 50 grams of sugar daily

50 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 12.5 level teaspoons of table sugar. That’s about the amount in 16-ounces of sugary soda.

How Much Sugar Is In The Food You Eat? 

Knowing your sugar allowance in teaspoons and in grams is helpful for curbing added sugar intake. The revised Nutrition Facts panel on food labels lists the amount of added sugar in grams and as a %Daily Value (%DV).

You may have noticed that food products are starting to carry the new Nutrition Facts panel. Most manufacturers will have to start using the panel by July 26, 2018.

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The %DV is a guide to the nutrients in a serving of food. For example, if the label lists 10 percent of the DV for added sugar, it means that a single serving provides 10 percent of your daily sugar “allowance.” The %DV for added sugar and other nutrients is based on a 2,000-calorie eating plan for healthy adults, so your sugar “allowance” may differ. For example, a person who requires 2,600 calories to maintain a healthy weight can eat up to 65 grams of added sugar daily as part of a balanced diet.

Once you know your sugar limit in grams, you can track the added sugar in packaged food as well as the sugar you add to foods, such as coffee, tea, and cereal. For reference, one level teaspoon of sugar contains four grams.

Simple Ways to Slash Added Sugar

If you’re living the sweet life, it may seem impossible to believe that you or your kids can live with less sugar.  I can’t say that I’ve completely tamed my sweet tooth, but that’s OK. Here are some simple tips for cutting back on added sugar.

• Avoid sugary drinks. We drink nearly half of all the added sugar we consume as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and other sweet beverages. Drink water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead.

• Minimize sweet treats. Cookies, candy, and snack bars and other sweet treats supply a significant amount of added sugar. Relegate these foods to the occasional category, and serve smaller portions, such as a mini cupcake or a fun-size candy bar. The first few bites are the most pleasurable, anyway.

• Control added sugar. Mix your favorite sugary cereal with an unsweetened kind, like nutrition expert and blogger Sally Kuzemchak does. (See her post about 5 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Child’s Diet.)  Fill a tall glass with cold seltzer water and add just a splash of 100% fruit juice.  Instead of sweetened yogurt, make your own by mixing plain with a teaspoon of sugar, honey, jam, or molasses. When baking muffins and other quick breads, cut the sugar called for in the recipe by at least one-third.

• Rely on fruit for sweetness. Swap syrup on pancakes and waffles for applesauce or other pureed fruit. Whip up a sweet smoothie with ripe fruit and milk or Greek yogurt. Try these No Added Sugar Banana Oatmeal Raisin Cups; they get their sweetness from bananas and raisins, and are better for you than oversized coffee shop and supermarket muffins.  Raisins have no added sugar, but other dried fruit, such as cranberries, do, so you need to take that into consideration when tallying added sugar intake. Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream” is a satisfying, no-added sugar treat that includes a serving of fruit and the goodness of peanut butter, too!

• Compare packaged foods. Sugar is added to foods such as breads, granola, instant oatmeal, and pasta sauce. Compare brands and search the lowest sugars content on the Nutrient Facts panel.

Benefits of Exercise Buddies


When your motivation to exercise is low for any reason, it’s a good idea to get an exercise buddy, or 30. Recent research suggests the company you keep can help you stick with healthier habits, like working out.

I usually get up very early in the morning to exercise, and I often wonder why I do it, especially when it’s cold and dark outside.  While I would love another hour in bed, the people I work out with motivate me to get to the gym to my favorite studio to take a class. Some of my exercise mates are good friends, but most of them are acquaintances. Whether or not I know them well, they make my life better.


On days when my work outs are more solitary in the gym and there’s no hooting and hollering to energize me, I still feel supported because I am surrounded by people doing the same thing. I don’t always know the details of their lives, and they may not know much about me, but I feel like we are silently cheering each other on.

Life often gets in the way, and I don’t always work out as often as I should. Exercising with others helps me to stick to a schedule as much as possible. My exercise buddies make it easier to get back into the swing of things when I’ve been away or sick, too. And they never fail to make working out more fun!



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