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Questions about diet, exercise? Here are some answers

Readers have submitted so many good questions that I thought I'd share a few more. I hope you'll find you're not alone in some of your concerns.

I often eat at restaurants because of my job. How do I make better food choices?

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind: Do your homework before you travel to find restaurants that offer the foods you want. You can also look for grocery stores that sell more nutritious foods that you can take back to your room. Another idea is to get menus ahead of time (many can be found online) and make your choice prior to getting to the restaurant. Reading a big menu when you're hungry is a good way to forget your best intentions.

I often travel for my job. What's the easiest way to get my exercise in when I'm traveling?

Walking is a great exercise when you're traveling. You don't need any special equipment, you can do it anywhere, and you're doing it as soon as you step outside your hotel room. Also, an accelerometer is a nice gadget to have anytime, but especially when traveling. It's similar to a pedometer but more sensitive to movements. It can let you know if you've moved enough that day to be on track for losing or maintaining weight. Do an Internet search to learn more about accelerometers and how they can be useful to you.

When exercising, is intensity or consistency more important?

Consistency is more important for the person that's trying to establish the habit of exercising for a lifetime. When we get too bogged down with intensity, we're more likely to lose interest or get overwhelmed and quit. You might be exercising "only" 10 minutes at first. However, if you're active every day for 10 minutes, you're making exercise a habit and making a big difference long term. Pushing yourself to the limit when you're out of shape isn't smart. You'll feel as if you're being tortured and will probably stop altogether. You can always increase duration or intensity gradually as long as you're exercising frequently. Consistently exercising throughout your life is more impressive than training to run one marathon and never doing another thing.

I have a tug of war going on in my head. When I'm stressed and hungry I can't deal with my negative thoughts — other than by eating. How do I stop criticizing myself so much?

When we're hungry, our stress level increases, and when we're stressed, we're more likely to overeat. Feeding your body just when you start to get hungry — and not waiting until you're ravenous — helps you stay in control. At the same time, learning to take life more realistically — surely you don't deserve so much criticism — and learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation will keep your stress level under control. If criticizing yourself needlessly and "catastrophizing" about your life is a pattern for you, take the time to work on letting go of these tendencies. You might try reading books and listening to audio programs about stress management, relaxation and meditation, or try seeking counseling.

When starting any diet, enthusiasm is so high. Even with positive results, why do I lose that initial determination and little by little revert to old habits?

Primarily, this is due to people having what I call a "short-term mentality." They're thinking only as far as getting to their goal weight and not what they will do after they reach their goal. They use methods that promise quick results but can't be incorporated into a normal life. It's like a sprint — with nothing after the race but old habits. They haven't trained for endurance, learning to manage fitness for the long run.

What is the difference between physiological deprivation and psychological deprivation?

Most diets lead to psychological deprivation, as the dieter is forbidden to eat something he or she likes. For example, if the diet doesn't allow carbohydrates, dieters who like carbs will become preoccupied with them and grab for the bread basket as soon as the diet is over. That's why diets that completely eliminate foods we like tend to cause compulsive eating patterns.

Physiological deprivation means that we lack something that we truly need for survival — such as water, food or shelter. If you never eat another brownie again, you won't die, but you might act as if you would!

Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send your questions to her at

Questions about diet, exercise? Here are some answers 09/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 7, 2012 4:30am]
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