Week 11: Getting Back on the Wagon

Farai Chideya continues her path to healthy living with some tips from nutritionist Rovenia Brock on staying motivated after falling off the fitness wagon. Brock is the author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy.

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ED GORDON, host:

This week in our fitness segment, NPR's Farai Chideya confesses some frustrations with her challenge to get in shape.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

In March, I made a commitment to take more responsibility for my health. I'm still at it, but not without some setbacks. I started working out, joined Weight Watchers and lost 13 pounds. Then I dropped out of Weight Watchers and gained five back. You know what that means - time to go back to the meetings. But, overall, I feel good.

(Soundbite of song "I Feel Good")

Mr. JAMES BROWN (Singer): (singing) So good, so good, I got you! Wow! I feel nice...

CHIDEYA: Now, that I've had my first setbacks, I'm here to ask Rovenia Brock, our NEWS & NOTES nutritionist, to help! What do I need to do to get back on track, Dr. Ro?

Dr. ROVENIA BROCK (NEWS & NOTES Nutritionist; Author, Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Living Healthy): The first thing we need to do to get you back on track is to put you back with the program that you had success with. And that was the eating plan that you, you know, followed during the Weight Watchers program.

And one of the things that that does is not only give you a plan and a guide, but you also have accountability. When you go to those meetings you got to ante up, you got to accountable to yourself and to the group...

CHIDEYA: To yourself, to your God, to the scale.

Dr. BROCK: ...to everyone. And accountability is a big part of the whole process of staying on track.

CHIDEYA: Yeah, I have to say that I've upped my exercise, but I'm definitely far off track on the food. And what I got the most out of Weight Watchers - and I should say this is not an endorsement for Weight Watchers - it's just that I've done it before with success. I'm sure there's lots of plans that work, if you follow them.

Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: But the main two things I've taken away from Weight Watchers are -one, eating should be about eating. It's not about sitting around and socializing and eating. It's not about watching TV and eating. It's not about, you know, being on your computer and eating. And you'd be surprised just how hard that is, just to be conscious of what you eat, as opposed to, you know, eating a burrito in the car.

Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm.

I've also gotten a personal trainer who's great. He's 24 years old; I was like oh, my gosh. But, you know, of course, I was like, of course you can be in shape, you're 24. But he was like, I have a rule about food: Don't eat anything that doesn't require silverware. So no...

Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: ...burritos, no hot dogs, nothing that you can just pick up and finger-food it, because...

Dr. BROCK: It forces you to sit down at a specific time to have that meal.

CHIDEYA: Right. I can tell you the three things that are killing my diet right now, and I'm really working on all of them, carbs...

Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: ...which you can have on Weight Watchers, but just not an unlimited amounts; booze, which is a carb...

Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: ...and travel, when I'm like, well, I'm stressed out, and I can eat just whatever I want. Do you have any strategies for dealing with any of those?

Dr. BROCK: Let's start with the carbs. Again, we don't want to cut off our noses to spite our faces. And by that, I mean, we don't want you to cut carbs. What we want you to do is to cut, as you said before, refined carbs. Those that are - sugar, the cookies, the cakes, the pies. The vegetables contain carbohydrates; and I want you to have copious amounts of vegetables. I want you to have copious amounts of vegetables and fruit, with small amounts of lean protein. Do not want you to cut carbohydrates.

The other thing is whole grains, like oats, like wheat, like barley. Those are foods that contain enormous amounts of fiber, which will give you a feeling of fullness and it will help you to suppress your appetite. In addition to that, those kinds of complex carbohydrates will give you energy to get you through your day.

Two, you mentioned booze. There's seven calories per gram of alcohol. If you're having a glass of wine at a social event, maybe it's business, it's not a sin to have a glass. However, glass after glass, the calories start to add up. And so you want to be mindful of that.

The final thing was travel. Now, travel can be a daunting task when it comes to staying on the plan, but if you travel with food, it is much less work to do. So take fresh fruits along, take nuts along, so that you grab a handful of raw almonds, for example. Have food with you, prepackaged so that you are not a victim of what's available as you travel.

CHIDEYA: I want to turn to Tenee Kaduma(ph), she listens to NEWS AND NOTES on member station WDET in Detroit, Michigan. Now, she's in a similar boat to me. She's gained some weight over the years and she writes us saying:

(Reading) "I am a 27-year-old African-American woman who is also attempting to change my eating and exercise lifestyle habits by including much more fruits and vegetables and bringing my lunch to work. I do not know how many pounds, if any, that I have lost. But my energy level has gone through the roof and I feel happier. I am just taking it one day at a time and hope that, by next summer, I will have made a significant difference in my overall health outlook."

So, we first of all, want to congratulate Tenee on her fitness challenge...

Dr. BROCK: Absolutely.

CHIDEYA: ...her personal fitness challenge. And she says that she is doing Jazzercise, but also that, like me, she's cheated on the diet part of her plan. Do you have any advice for her?

Dr. BROCK: Well, first of all, I wish to give her kudos, because she's doing most of the right things. Love the fact that she's taking Jazzercise. So now she's adding more physical activity to her lifestyle so that she can change it. And she'll get some enjoyment out of this. Jazzercise can be brutal, I should tell you that, but it's a lot of fun.

She mentions taking her lunch to work. So there is - there again, is a point about keeping food on you and not placing yourself in the position of being a victim for whatever's available; because when you tend to eat whatever's available, that gets you off your plan, often entices you or encourages you to consume far more calories than you really require for normal body maintenance, let alone weight loss. And also has you eating things that you normally wouldn't or shouldn't.

I would also say to add to what she's doing, because there comes a point where, in your case, Farai, you reach a plateau. And so your body doesn't want to respond to the same things that you've been doing over the past few months, or the past few weeks. So now you've got to step up your game a bit. And so she might add not only walking up and down stairs, but she might add taking a walk on her lunch break.

And here's the other thing I love about what she's doing. She set a realistic goal; she gets that it is a process.

CHIDEYA: Dr. Ro, thank you for that great advice.

Dr. BROCK: Always a pleasure.

GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya, speaking with NEWS & NOTES Nutritionist Rovenia Brock, author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Healthy Living.

On the next fitness challenge, Farai learns how to get her exercise technique right, with some expert tips on posture, how to avoid injuries and how to soothe her achy, stiff muscles.

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