In our recent 2021 resolutions survey just over 75% of you said you wanted to drop some pounds this year. This post is not about dietary strategies or shaming each other for the foods we eat. Each of you will choose tactics to lose weight, which could include more exercise, less sedentary behavior, more good foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etcetera), less food overall and so on.
Before we start let’s determine just what our weight situation is. A universal measure of weight category is Body Mass Index or BMI. This index is not a perfect measure as your body type (bone structure and muscle mass) can affect the reading. But it is not a bad guideline. BMI is determined by weight and height. You calculate a number which places you on a range scale as outlined below.
Obese Level 1
Obese Level 2
Obese Level 3
Courtesy of Calculator.net
I will not suggest that we should all be “Normal” nor will I recommend to anyone what their target should be. I am comfortable in sharing how I look at the index and what my goals are. When I started my “weight loss” resolution I was 198 pounds and a statuesque 5 foot seven. This gave me a BMI of 31.2, so in the Obese Class 1. My goal is to achieve a weight of 175 pounds, which as I laid out in a previous post, would be bring me to the mid range of normal body fat. My BMI at 175 would be 27.4, which is the midpoint of the overweight category. I am comfortable with that weight as I believe I have an above average level of muscle mass and the low 180’s is where I have been most of my adult life. You can calculate your own BMI using the link below.
Now let’s turn our attention to what it takes to lose weight. I used to think it was as simple as ingesting fewer calories that you burn. I now know it is way more complicated than that and I have been reading up on the topic. I will try to distill what I have learned in future posts.
Many of you know Mohan Singh the Heart Failure Nurse from SHN. He will be speaking on the latest information in the treatment and management of heart failure. If this is of interest to you you can join the web meeting using the link below. You can sign on anonymously if you wish. Try to log in starting at 9:20AM.
The answer to this question is very subjective and depends a lot on each individuals situation. Your gender, age, muscle mass, bone structure and body type can profoundly affect what is realistic for you. Still, I personally knew I needed to have a goal for me and I was looking for some objectivity or science to guide me. I looked at BMI calculations and I did not like the answer it gave me, and, ideal body weight (IBW) calculators were turning up numbers I Knew I could never achieve (like sub 150 pounds!) I came across a tool that made a lot of sense for me. A chart showing body fat ranges for different categories and a calculator you can use to determine your individual starting point. I have put a link to this tool at the bottom of this post but let me explain how I used it.
I used the calculator to determine my body fat % estimate to be 33%. The calculator also said, “Due to different body types in the population, your body fat (Cardioman) can be between: 30.1-36.8 %“. I next looked at the chart and isolated what the midpoint of normal body fat would be. This turned out to be 21%. So this told me I needed to lose about 1/3 of my body fat. Based on my starting weight that meant I needed to lose 23 pounds! This established my goal weight for me.
Try the calculator and see if it is helpful to you in establishing a goal.
We have heard from about 2/3 of the peer group. We will keep the survey link open and you can find it at the bottom of this Post. Preliminary findings are shown here. We want to move onto the next steps of sharing and ensuring everyone is as successful as possible with their resolutions.
Almost 90% of us have at least thought about targets and desires for 2021.
Perhaps not surprisingly over 80% of of us that have goals have a target or desire for weight. I can only assume weight loss, but who knows. Nutrition and Exercise can certainly impact weight changes.
Just over half of us with targets are prepared to share our journey with the group. There will be a page on the website where we can share goals and comment to each other. This page will be password protected and I will be sending it out separately by e-mail. This should be fun!
A whole year of opportunity is spread out ahead of us. Will this be the year we make and keep health promises to ourselves. Let’s journey through 2021 together. As a starting point let’s figure out what we are doing as a group. The link below takes you to a three question anonymous survey. I’ll write about the results and then we will figure out how to make everyone successful in 2021!
Use the link below to register for the presentation.
Our local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, will give a free, online presentation about the current status of COVID-19 vaccines and their local rollout on Friday, January 15, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
The details of this “meeting” can be found at the link below, including how you register. As many of us are in the higher risk group, this may be of interest to our peer group. The link will open a PDF with all the details you need.
But the source of the fats you choose — and the rest of what you typically eat — make a big difference.
“Covid Camp” resulted in a ten pound weight gain for me in 2020. It was not lack of exercise as I actually increased my workouts this year. I have managed to prove that you cannot control your weight just with exercise and my recent blood work shows a significant (Doctor – “your cholesterol is a little high”) increase in LDL. As I was thinking about resolutions for 2021 around nutrition options (“do eat mores and do eat lesses”), I came across this letter on Heart Healthy Eating from Harvard Medical. While this was not my only source of information it did remind me of the role saturated fat plays in affecting our LDL cholesterol levels. I hope this is helpful to you as you think about your “resolutions” for 2021.
Published: November, 2020
Recently, a Harvard Heart Letter reader emailed us to say he was puzzled by a statement in our July issue — namely, the one saying that low-fat diets don’t seem to prevent heart disease. “Don’t most major health organizations, including the American Heart Association, recommend a low-fat diet?” he asked.
Yes, they did — for more than 40 years. But over the past decade, the American Heart Association, the federal dietary guidelines, and other nutrition authorities have shifted away from advising people to limit the total amount of fat in their diets. “Instead, the focus is on an overall healthy dietary pattern. That means an eating style that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, along with only modest or small amounts of meat, dairy, eggs, and sweets,” says Dr. Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The reality is that eating more whole or minimally processed, plant-based foods will naturally lower your intake of fat, especially saturated fat. Found mainly in meat and dairy products, saturated fat can boost levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, a key contributor to heart disease. But simply cutting back on all types of fat does not necessarily translate into a diet that lowers cardiovascular risk.
Low-fat diet fails
Starting in the 1980s, when food manufacturers and consumers cut the fat from their products and diets, they replaced it with refined carbohydrates. People filled up on bread, pasta, low-fat chips and cookies, and low-fat sweetened yogurt. Eating lots of these highly processed carbohydrates floods your bloodstream with sugar, triggering a release of insulin to clear the sugar from your blood. But that can push your blood sugar too low, leaving you hungry again after just a few hours, which encourages overeating and weight gain. What’s more, a steady diet of these unhealthy carbs can eventually impair your body’s ability to respond to insulin, which can lead to diabetes. Both obesity and diabetes are closely linked to a heightened risk of heart disease.
But eating too many refined carbs wasn’t the only problem. Avoiding unsaturated fats — those found in nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and fish — isn’t necessary. Not only do these foods make your meals more satisfying and tastier, unsaturated fat promotes cardiovascular health.
What about ultra-low-fat diets?
Some physicians advocate an ultra-low-fat diet, which includes just 10% of calories from fat. This diet excludes all animal-based products (such as meat, poultry, dairy, and fish), as well as refined carbohydrates (including white flour, white sugar, and even fruit juice). But it also shuns some healthier unsaturated fats, including added oils and high-fat, plant-based foods such as avocados and nuts. Small studies have shown that this eating pattern may actually reverse the buildup of cholesterol-clogged plaque in the arteries.
At least some of that benefit may stem from the abundant fiber and other nutrients in the diet’s copious amounts of vegetables, beans, and whole grains, all of which are fairly scarce in the typical American diet. The only problem with an ultra-low-fat vegan diet is that it’s very challenging for most people to stick to over the long term. “If you are among the 1% of people who can, may the Force be with you,” says Dr. Rimm.
For everyone else, a Mediterranean-style diet offers the best of both worlds — a plant-centric diet that’s not overly restrictive (see “Simple steps to a Mediterranean-style eating plan”). “The Mediterranean diet doesn’t require extreme eating habits that make it difficult to socialize with other people,” he says. What’s more, he adds, it tastes good and has the best evidence from long-term clinical studies for lowering a person’s risk of heart disease.
Simple steps to a Mediterranean-style eating plan
To ease into this eating style, look over these suggestions from registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Choose one, try it for a week, then gradually add more changes over time, she advises. Switch from whatever fats you use now to extra-virgin olive oil. Start by using olive oil when cooking, including in salad dressings. Try swapping olive oil for butter on crusty bread. Have salad every day. Choose crisp, dark greens and whatever vegetables are in season. Go nuts. Instead of a bag of chips or cookies, have a handful of raw nuts as a healthy snack. Add more whole grains to your meals. Experiment with bulgur, barley, farro, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta. Select dense, chewy, country-style bread without added sugar or butter. Add a variety of vegetables to your menus. Add an extra serving of vegetables to both lunch and dinner, aiming for three to four servings a day. Try a new vegetable every week. Eat at least three servings of legumes a week. Options include lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, and black beans. Eat less meat. Choose lean poultry in moderate, 3- to 4-ounce portions. Save red meat for occasional consumption or use meat as a condiment, accompanied by lots of vegetables, as in stews, stir-fries, and soups. Eat more fish, aiming for two servings a week. Both canned and fresh fish are fine. Cut out sugary beverages. Replace soda and juices with water. Eat fewer high-fat, high-sugar desserts. Fresh fruit or poached fruit is best. Aim for three servings of fresh fruit a day. Save cakes and pastries for special occasions.
There is a great source of heart healthy eating on the Central East Regional Cardiac Rehab website, at the link below;