Real Reader Diet Makeover: Jason, 44, Unhappily Overweight

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A real reader asks for weight loss advice and gets a diet makeover.

Does you need a diet makeover? Plenty of our readers say they want diet and exercise advice – so this week, we’re doing something a little different. We’re profiling a ‘real reader’ of our blog who asked for help from me and Samantha with his weight. Let me introduce you to “Jason” – the subject of this week’s diet and exercise makeover. Jason’s concerns – as well as his obstacles in achieving a healthy weight – are very typical, which is why we chose him for our first makeover. We felt that his story was one that many of you would relate to – and hopefully learn from, too.

Jason is 44 years old. Back in the day – more than 20 years ago – his weight was pretty stable at about 220 pounds (100kg). Of course, he was lifting weights and playing a lot of football then – and burning plenty of calories, so he could pretty much eat what he wanted. Fast forward to 2010. He’s now married, a proud parent of six boys and works at a desk job. And his weight has ballooned to 270 pounds (122kg). Told that weight loss would help his health, he started using Herbalife Formula 1 shakes in place of two meals a day, eating one healthy meal and exercising when he can. By 2013 he’s managed to bring his weight down to about 240 (109kg). But he’s still carrying too much weight, not getting enough exercise, and he wants to drop another 40 pounds or so.

His schedule isn’t helping. “I’m usually up by 6:30 am to get the boys ready for school and daycare,” he told me, “then I’ve got a long commute to work.” He then sits at his desk all day, leaves work late to avoid traffic, and arrives home as late as 9 pm – and he’s starving. “I have complete control – until dinner,” he said. But by the time he gets home, everyone else has eaten, so he grabs whatever is left – along with some soda or lemonade – and eats in front of the television. “I am very disciplined when it comes to diet and a routine, but getting one established that works has been incredibly challenging.”

Let’s take a closer look at Jason’s eating habits – and a few of the tips I gave him for his personal diet makeover.

Problem: Cutting back too much during the day.

Jason’s day starts at 6:30 am and doesn’t end until close to midnight. But he’s just not fueling up enough during the daytime hours. From the time he gets up until the time he gets home at 9 pm or so, he’s only had two Formula 1 shakes and 2 Herbalife Beverage Mixes – a good start, but not enough fuel to carry him for nearly 15 hours. Cutting back too far during the day often leads to overeating at night. And without enough fuel to keep you going all day, your energy level tanks so you can’t work efficiently.

Solution: Substantial afternoon snack or small “second lunch.”

I suggested to Jason that he try to have a substantial mid-afternoon snack or even a small “second lunch” a few hours after he has his second Formula 1 shake. This accomplishes a few things. First, it will help keep his energy level up for the rest of the afternoon. Second, it takes the ‘pressure’ off dinner to provide the other foods he hasn’t had during the day – like fruits and vegetables – since he can include those foods at the afternoon meal. Third, since it will take the edge off his hunger, he will be better able to control his portions at night. He can either pack leftovers for this second lunch, or he can search out some healthy calorie-controlled frozen meals.

Problem: Eating too much at night.

Since Jason is taking in less than 500 calories during the day, it’s not surprising that he’s pretty hungry by the time he walks in the door at night. And it’s too easy for him to tell himself he “hasn’t eaten all day” and that he “deserves” the extra food. The food that’s left for him by the family is reasonably healthy (fish or chicken, veggies, brown rice), but he’s so hungry he ends up eating a lot more than he should.

Solution: Redistribute the calories.

Jason needs to pace his calories. If Jason has a good-sized snack in the afternoon, dinner can be much lighter. Since there are usually dinner leftovers when he gets home from work, I suggested that Jason pack up a portion for the next day’s “second lunch.” Then, instead of a full dinner meal, he can focus on the lower calorie vegetables and a bit of protein for his dinner.

Problem: Too many liquid calories.

Jason doesn’t have a big sweet tooth when it comes to desserts, but his go-to beverages at night are lemonade or regular soda. His beverages alone could be contributing hundreds of empty calories that he just can’t afford.

Solution: Reduce sugar in beverages.

Jason may need some time to wean himself off the sweet beverages, so I suggested he take this one step at a time. One way is to start by mixing the lemonade half-and-half with sparkling water, and then gradually decrease the amount of lemonade until there’s just a splash for flavor. Or, he could add a tiny bit of 100% fruit juice or a few chunks of frozen fruit to the water for flavor.

Problem: Eating while distracted.

Jason eats nearly all his meals in front of a screen. He drinks his shakes and snacks in front of the computer at work, and he often eats dinner in front of the television. When you do this, you don’t really get the satisfaction of having eaten, and if you’re not paying attention (in his case, at dinner in front of the television), it’s really easy to overeat.

Solution: Take a break to focus on your food.

I suggested that Jason take breaks during the day to focus on his meals, especially his “second lunch” in the afternoon and his meal at night. He was reluctant to set aside the time – given his workload – but he agreed that taking 10 or 15 minutes to relax and enjoy his food would be a welcome break – and that his work wouldn’t really suffer.

Problem: Not eating enough fruits and veggies.

Jason told me that he likes fruit, but he’s just not in the habit of eating it. And the only time he really has a chance to eat vegetables is at night – but one meal just can’t provide all your veggies and fruits for the day.

Solution: Have fruits and/or veggies every time you eat.

This sounds like a tall order, but it isn’t that hard. First, Jason could easily add fruit to his shakes. He could have a piece of fruit in his meal replacement shakes or with his shakes – sort of a ‘side dish.’ Since he’s going to start having that “second lunch” made up of dinner leftovers, he’s got his vegetables covered at that meal. If he decides to use frozen meals for his afternoon snack, I suggested that he also pick up some pre-washed salad greens and some low-calorie dressing. That way, he can put together a quick side salad while his meal is heating up in the microwave. Then he can have more veggies at night when he gets home, and grab another piece of fruit for dessert.

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After we met, Jason was really pumped up and ready to go. With just a few easy fixes, we were able to give him a diet makeover that will get his weight moving again. So stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted on his progress!

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