Short-Term Losses

By Sally Squires
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lean Plate Club members are a curious lot who frequently e-mail me during the week with questions. Here's a roundup of some of their most recent queries and my replies:

I was ill last week and, despite hydration, lost about seven pounds. I know this is water weight and I fully expect some, or most of it, to come back now that I'm eating again. But how much?

Sorry to hear that you've been sick. Figure that most of that weight will likely return. Here's why: It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to shed a pound. Let's assume that you need the average 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight. And let's say that you didn't eat anything at all last week. (Unlikely, I realize.) There will be a large water loss, because you haven't had the sodium and other electrolytes that come with food and drink. But the most body weight you can lose -- and this includes fat as well as a little muscle and maybe even some bone -- is about half a pound per day or about 3.5 pounds for the entire week. So most of what you lost is, sadly, probably water, not fat. Hope your recovery continues uneventfully.

I'm looking for a calorie- and diet-monitoring program that I can run on my Palm, or at least on my computer. A year or so ago I tried something called BalanceLog by HealtheTech, which has gone out of business.

There are a growing number of computer programs to track what you eat and how many calories you burn. The good news: Many are free. The bad news: Most won't synchronize between your PDA and desktop the way that HealtheTech's BalanceLog did.

Among the free programs for your desktop are Fitday (, My Food Diary (, NutritionData (, Nutridiary ( and Sparkpeople (

Diet Organizer will let you track food and activity on your PDA (BlackBerry, Palm or Pocket PC) or your cellphone. None of these will synchronize with the desktop version of Diet Organizer, and the food lists are a fraction of what BalanceLog offered. You can try it for free, but after that you'll have to shell out $19.95 for the PDA and cellphone versions, $39.95 for the desktop.

Another option is Diet Power, which gets high marks from Runner's World and Consumer Electronics. There's no version for your PDA. Like Diet Organizer, you can try it for free. But after that you'll need to buy it for $49.99.

My fiance and I want to get healthy before our wedding in October. This includes eating better, exercising and hopefully losing some weight . . . . We both have a Lean Cuisine for lunch. . . . Is it okay to do that every day? We like the convenience. . . . But I worry about getting too much sodium.

Best wishes on your upcoming nuptials! And how great it is that you're starting these healthy habits together for your new life! As you've already figured out, processed food can be a major source of sodium. In fact, that -- plus restaurant and fast-food fare -- accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the sodium we consume.

But the trade-off is convenience and portion control. You can help offset that sodium by being careful about what else you eat during the day. You might also check out the DASH diet, by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which can be used for both weight control and for reducing blood pressure. Even if blood pressure isn't a problem for you or your fiance, the DASH diet is a healthy way to eat. It's rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and healthy fat such as nuts.

A growing number of companies are also lowering the sodium in their food. Bread, soup and bouillon, crackers and frozen and canned food can be quite high in sodium. (A cup of soup can easily have 800 to 1,000 milligrams. Current advice is for African Americans, all people 50 and older, and those with high blood pressure to limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams or less. Other people are advised to eat 2,400 milligrams of sodium or less per day.)

More low- and reduced-sodium products are hitting the markets. Here's a tip from a Lean Plate Club member who discovered that Wyler's has a sodium-free bouillon (chicken or beef): She uses it to flavor stews and stir-fried food.

Sally, our office is moving locations, which means new furniture. Can you tell us where you got your desk with the motor? I'm hoping to convince the powers that be that we need them, too.

The Post newsroom is equipped with motorized desks that adjust for standing. They're Contrex models, made by Steelcase. Also, see a video of how LPC member Lois Yurow of Westfield, N.J., has equipped her office with a computer and a treadmill at our Web site,, where you can also chat with me today from 1 to 2 p.m. and subscribe to the free LPC e-mail newsletter. ยท

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