Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2007; 1:00 PM

Confused about nutrition? Wondering how to fit in more physical activity? Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Ask Sally Squires, nationally syndicated Lean Plate Club columnist for the Washington Post, about eating smart and moving more every Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. Sally draws upon her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to preside over the lively Lean Plate Club web chat. Whether you're trying to reach a healthier weight or simply maintain it, you'll find plenty of tips and strategies.

Share your own food finds, creative workouts and secrets for healthy, great tasting meals. We'll cheer your successes and help with your setbacks. (None of this, of course, is a substitute for medical advice.) E-mail Sally, author of the newly published Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martin's Press) at leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Or just sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. The Lean Plate Club column appears Tuesdays in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Find other Lean Plate Club members at www.frappr.com/leanplateclub.

The Archives:

Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. We're talking fitness today, in light of the updated exercise guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

And of course, we'll have plenty of other topics up for discussion.

The LPC e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in boxes right now. If you'd like to subscribe to this free, weekly service, just go to our homepage at www.leanplateclub.com and you're just a simple click away from signing up.

We're awarding prizes again today too. But since I'm hosting remotely, they'll be a surprise. Winners are announced at the end of each chat.

And finally, if any of you have ever experienced food addiction and are willing to share your experiences, I'd love to talk to you for an upcoming LPC column. Just zip an e-mail to me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please include your name, address and phone number as well as the best time to call you and a little about your particular food addiction. Also, please put food addiction in the subject line.

Now on to the chat!


Cleveland: I always heard that exercise helped control your appetite, but I never quite believed it. Didn't make sense to me. UNTIL, I started to get some exercise on a regular basis and found it to be true. After I finish and drink some water to rehydrate myself, I am not nearly as hungry as I thought I would be! I must add that while I am walking or working out and sweating and really giving it some good, strong, effort, I keep telling myself, "Darn that extra helping of pasta!"

Sally Squires: Exercise can be a wonderful appetite suppressant--at least in the short term. But some people also overcompensate for their workouts by eating more. And if any of you happened to catch this new summer show from ABC called the Fat March, you could see how participants who walked 65 miles sometimes only lost about 4 pounds. It's hard to lose weight from exercise alone, but there are plenty of other benefits to recommend it as today's column shows.

And I'm with you Cleveland. When my workouts are really regular, I find I'm rarely hungry. In fact, I wonder if many of us stuck at our desks reach for food or drink when what we really crave is activity. What do you think Lean Plate Club members?


SW-Waterfront: The guideline of 30 minutes per day of "moderately intensive physical activity" does not specify aerobic or anaerobic. So is the suggested weightlifting in addition to the 30 minutes of physical activity or does it count toward the 30 minutes? Yes, I know that you can lift weights in such a way that it is aerobic, but for purposes of this question, let's just say that you are lifting weights in more so of an anaerobic manner. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Those 30 minutes five times per week are for moderate activity, such as brisk walking. If you can go even faster--say jogging--then you can get by with about 20 minutes three times weekly. And yes, that weight training is in addition to the other activities. Hope that answers your question. Thanks for chiming in.


Memphis, Tenn.: I recently purchased a condo on Mud Island a small island right off-shore from downtown Memphis and in the middle of Ol' Man River, the Mighty Mississippi River and bordered by the Wolf River. I bought it for the tranquility of the rivers, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets...but next door a unique facility opened...a medical facility. This one not only dispenses the normal medical treatments but has unlimited access to yoga, Pilates, body sculpting, karate, aerobics, and core enhancement classes. Now it is hard to know which I like better about my new home, the setting or the amenities. I LOVE it all. I used to think that I didn't like exercising but now, like the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, it is a fixture in my day. Exercising does control your eating. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy. I know longer say I have to go to exercise class. UGH!!! I dash out the door to my yoga class. I believe it was Mark Twain who said that life is an illusion, but a persistent illusion. Change the way you think about exercising and your eating habits and you will see a difference without it seeming like a sacrifice.

Sally Squires: Couldn't have said it better myself, Memphis! Thanks for chiming in and congratulations on your new lifestyle and home. Sounds wonderful.


Wesley Chapel, N.C.: Comment: in regards to feeling less hungry, and feel less cravings after exercising -- I absolutely feel less food cravings, and less hungry after I exercise. I walk for 45 minutes at a brisk pace, and do break a sweat -- and when done, I feel more energetic, I fill up faster when eating a meal afterwards, and I don't feel the cravings that come in the between meal time frames. Exercise really does help.

Sally Squires: That's three votes for exercise controlling appetite on this chat alone. Thanks Wesley Chapel!


Vallejo, Calif.: Team In Training has been a great way to help me build more exercise into my week. I'm training to walk a marathon (my second) and helping a good cause (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) at the same time. I've found working with a team has me doing things I never thought I could do. They help people who have not exercised in years complete their events, and age isn't an issue. I'm 56 and trying to take off 20 extra pounds -- I'm not a svelte 56-year old. Last Saturday I walked 13 miles in the morning and had the energy to go shopping and have lunch with my daughter in the afternoon.

Sally Squires: What a great win-win! In fact, since you get regular activity, get in shape and help others, maybe we should make that a win-win-win! Thanks for chiming in and for being an inspiration.


ex-Floridian in Rosslyn: Ah, Sally, I'm from just a bit north of St. Pete, and I envy you! I miss central Florida, even though it lacks many of the charms of D.C., like good public transport.

I wanted to comment about your column on exercise: when I up the exercise levels, I am massively hungrier (perhaps a nod to a column from a few months ago highlighting the study that showed women often eat more after workouts, while men eat the same or less). A friend who works out a lot told me to just get used to constant hunger, but I fear that it's actually hampering my ability to lose the last of the grad school 20 because my body is not getting enough food. I am adjusting my eating schedule to 5x daily (3 smaller meals plus 2 small snacks) to try and keep my appetite more stable, and I've bumped up the amount I eat for breakfast. I've even tried waiting 20 minutes after meals to see if my brain will signal me that I'm full -- no luck, however. Anyone else have a tip for keeping hunger at bay while increasing exercise?

Sally Squires: It's great here today in sunny Florida,where you can now read the Lean Plate Club in the Sarasota Herald Tribune and in the Orlando Sentinel. (If you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your hometown newspaper--more than 6 million members do now each week, just zip me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com. And please put hometown newspaper in the subject line.)

Rosslyn, You might try increasing both complex carbs, fiber, protein and fluids (particularly with meals.) Two books that you also might find helpful: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Handbook (Human Kinetics) and Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls. And don't forget to be well fueled about one hour before your workouts to make sure that you have enough energy to perform well. If you don't already do this, consider eating about 100 to 200 calories for a pre-workout snack.

Other suggestions out there?


Reach for food or drink when what we really crave is activity: Yes. I sit at my desk all day -- my entire job can be done without getting up at all, ever. Sometimes I'm tempted to eat when I'm bored, even if I'm not hungry. Instead of grabbing a candy bar (we've got 'em in a jar at work for the taking) I go for a walk -- either in the office, or outside. Even just a short walk gets my mind off food. Of course, if I'm really honestly hungry I eat something.

Sally Squires: And one option is that Healthy Office that James Levine has developed at the Mayo Clinic. I'm determined to get a treadmill in my cubicle one way or another. And if I were in the office right now, I'd be standing while hosting this chat. Thanks for chiming in!


Alexandria, Va.: I read an article that linked diet sodas to weight gain...how can it make me gain weight if it has zero calories?

Sally Squires: It may be that the sweet taste--even from non-calorie sources--can affect appetite, Alexandria. That's one possibility. This is a recent study--results were released just a week or so ago--and in science, findings need to be replicated. So the findings are still unfolding, but's an interesting study and I suspect that you'll hear more about it.


breakfast?: Hi Sally, how soon upon waking up should you eat breakfast? I normally like to hit the gym first thing, and workout on an empty stomach - it doesn't seem to hinder my energy levels or endurance. I normally eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast once I get to work (about 2.5 hours after I've woken up). Is this still considered "breakfast", meaning does this still provide the same benefits of eating breakfast that you have talked about in the past? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Yes, that can still be considered breakfast because it's your first meal of the day. Everyone is different, but when I have talked to experts on this topic--including Leslie Bonci, PhD., RD, of the University of Pittsburgh--the advice is to try to get something in your stomach before that morning workout.

That can be tough for some people to do. And if this is working for you, go for it. But the advantage for getting a little something in stomach is that it not only helps break the nightly fast and fuels your workout, but it may help your body since it won't think it's in starvation mode.

So you might try eating or drinking some very small and see how things go. If it doesn't work well for you, go back to what you were doing. You are the best judge of what works well for you!


Just Do It: I liked the bit about "Did Its" in the newsletter.

I've noticed that I'm so much more motivated when I think about exercising as something I DO rather than something I'm "TRYING to do." Lately I've caught myself saying "I'm trying to get in shape," "I'm trying to exercise every day," and "I'm trying to eat healthier." When I use that word "try" it's like I haven't really committed. When I catch myself saying "try" I switch to "I AM getting in shape," "I AM exercising every day" and "I AM eating healthier." This change in how I talk has made a difference in my motivation because I'm telling myself exercising and eating healthy are part of my normal routine, rather than something out of the ordinary.

"Do or do not. There is no try." (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

Sally Squires: I loved the "Did its" idea too. (For those who have not yet read today's newsletter, this concept comes from the University of Virginia's Glenn Gaesser. As a younger athlete he competed in a lot of activities, including marathons and pushed himself a great deal. As an older athlete, he finds he enjoys working out with others and being less competitive. When they get a little activity, they consider it a "did it," even if they didn't make their full workout.)

Mindset has as much to do with workouts as muscles, don't you think?


re: diet sodas:"linked diet sodas to weight gain..."-- and keep in mind correlation is not necessarily causation. I don't know the study, but if, for example, people who drink a lot of diet soda do so because they have a sweet tooth, they may be getting more calories elsewhere. Or people who make an effort to have a healthier diet in general (and therefore better control their weight) may tend to cut out soda of all kinds. Etc.

Sally Squires: Absolutely right. Everything needs to be put in perspective and this study is recent and has not yet been replicated. So stay tuned!Thanks for weighing in.


Williamsburg, Va.: Hi! Love your column and chats. Here's my tip:

To ward off nighttime TV munchies, I paint my nails while I watch the tube. It keeps my hands busy and I have to wait for the polish to dry before I can even THINK about putting food in my mouth.

Sally Squires: What a great idea! We can add that to knitting, crocheting, sewing, push-ups, walking in place and more....I think we need to start a link to a list on our home-page. What do you think?


Washington, D.C.: I need to be more consistent with my exercise routine. When I do exercise I do water aerobics. I am diabetic and my sugar levels have improved after changing meds but I need to lose weight. I just received a called from my doctor while attending this chat(my first time) and he informed me that I had a artery that was a little clogged but he did not want to put me on meds. Will exercise help with the artery?

Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club and thanks for taking the plunge to post. Sorry to hear about your doctor's report. Exercise and changes in diet may help with that slightly clogged artery.

Diabetes increases your risk of developing heart disease. So it's a good idea to talk more with doctor about this problem. If you have not yet been to talk with a diabetes nutrition educator, you might ask if your insurance will cover this kind of referral (and consider paying for it yourself if it doesn't.) Also, ask your doctor about Dean Ornish's approach to unclogging arteries with diet, meditation and activity. He has a number of books on the topic. And Neal Barnard has written a book about reversing diabetes that has been published in the last year. It's mostly a vegan approach and may not be for everyone, but again could be something that you discuss with your doctor.

Hope that helps. Please let us know how it goes.


Silver Spring, Md.: when I was MUCH younger -- in my 20s -- I exercised best on an empty stomach, with nausea the result of eating before a run.

Now that I'm older -- in my 50s -- nausea is a more likely problem if I DON'T eat -- even just a slice of whole grain toast and some water -- before heading out for a jog with the dog.

Sally Squires: Interesting...and a great example of how we constantly need to adjust as our bodies change. Thanks for chiming in Silver Spring!


New York, NY: Wow, Mud Island is amazing!!! I'd be jealous if I didn't have a place on the East River with a gym in the basement.

I always lose weight when I exercise. I never lose weight when I only watch what I eat.

Sally Squires: It does sound great, doesn't it, New York? Plus, those workouts help with energy, sleep and all the other benefits from controlling blood sugar and blood pressure to improving arthritis mentioned in today's Web chat. Thanks!


Minneapolis: Dear Sally:

As always,thanks for the column; I needed to see the importance of weight training once again because as I age (just turned 50) anything that makes me uncomfortable; I'd just rather not do.

I hate to be the one voice where exercise does not decrease my appetite; it does not, but it decreases the amount of time I have to eat! So I benefit. However, for me 30 minutes a work out period is not enough to loose weight. It's enough to maintain but I want to loose.

On a different subject, wanted to pass on 2 food tips. One (giving credit where due) came from the "Real(ity)Diet" by Dr. Schnur. He has a recipe for cornmeal on sole (fish). Instead of the egg yolk/white with flour to bread fish; he suggests spraying on non stick oil directly on the fish and it works!

Next idea is mine. Since I had no cornmeal; I used flaxseed meal and I thought it was really good. There you go fiber junkies!

Thanks, Sally: love the column.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions, Minneapolis. Hope that all is going well in the aftermath of that horrible bridge collapse. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is another Lean Plate Club subscriber and I called my friends there when I heard about the collapse. Fortunately, they were all fine, but our hearts and prayers go out with those who were much less fortunate.


A conundrum: I have been trying to lose weight for three months ( I need to lose 50 pounds) and have had very limited success. I went on vacation for two weeks and even with lots of visiting and less exercise I managed to lose 4 pounds. I ate whatever I wanted but much less than my usual because I was busy and I think the foods I ate were tastier and I was more satisfied. At work yesterday I noticed that everyone who is overweight is eating salads and melba toast and tuna, and the people of normal weight are eating just normal foods. Is eating low cal actually making me heavier?

Sally Squires: It could be that you're not as full from eating your salads. So maybe you ought to take a closer look at what foods satisfied you during your vacation and consider incorporating some of those.

Weight loss doesn't defy the laws of thermodynamics. So as long as calories in are less than calories out, there will be weight loss. (And weight gain when it's vice versa.)

You might also consider tracking your calories and measuring what you eat. Calorie creep can undermine a lot of the best intentions--not that I'd know anything about that myself or anything! :-)


Alexandria: I cannot eat before working out (it would come up), so I use GU energy gel (Power Bar makes some, too, as do other companies). They are basically carbs and vitamins. I have two in the a.m., then run or lift, then breakfast, then go to work (I get up very early). I also use them before longer, competitive runs. For a 10 miler, it takes two before and one during. They are 100 cals a piece and work well.

Sally Squires: That's a great idea--and one that the University of Pittsburgh's Leslie Bonci has also suggested to her clients and athletes. She also consults with some pro sports teams in Pittsburgh and has helped out with some of the U.S. Olympic athletes.


Mena, Ar: Lunch breaks are a great time to get in a little exercise. Most of us get 30min-1hr for lunch and most eat in a break room or at a desk. Unless you have to go out for lunch, it probably takes 15 min or less to eat. Instead of leaning back in the chair, go walk. Or climb a flight of stairs, just do something. I find that if I do the exercise part during the first part of the lunch break, I'm not as hungry as I would be if I ate first. Any exercise you can sneak in adds up over the course of the week.

Sally Squires: You're absolutely right, Mena. There are many opportunities for activity that many of miss. This is a great way to fit in some extra minutes. Thanks for chiming in.


Anchorage, Alaska: I know there is some question about safety in grilling over a charcoal grill. How about electric. Is it the degree of heat or the charred meat?

What is the safety of smoked salmon?

Sally Squires: It's the charring part that seems to be the biggest problem, Anchorage. That's where hetereocyclic amines accumulate and they have been linked with cancer. So have some smoked foods--mostly to stomach cancer--another reason why moderation in all things is important.

And by the way, long cooking times can also accumulate HCA's, so it's not just charring that counts. It's also another reason why eating a mostly plant-based diet is a smart idea.

Thanks for chiming in.


Fallen: My regular workout routine (on which I lost about 25 pounds and maintained) is walking, light weights and yoga. Unfortunately, I fell down a flight of stairs and have torn cartilage in my knee and injured my back, resulting in several pinched nerves. Walking is out. Yoga is out. I can do some upper body weight training, but nothing more. Any suggestions on ways to increase my heart rate and protect my previous hard work?

Sally Squires: So very sorry to hear about your fall and injuries. If you have not yet seen a physical therapist, you might ask for a referral. That way you can be careful to reduce the odds of further injury during recovery.

You might check to see if swimming would be okay with your doctor. In the meantime, you may need to be very careful about your intake since you're likely pretty limited on activity and may be for a while. So you might also find Volumetrics useful in controlling calories--but not necessarily amount of food--while you recover.

Another possibility might be chair exercises. But don't do anything without checking first with your doctor. Hope your recovery goes well. Hang in there. We're cheering you on!


Fairfax, Va.: Desperate question here, hoping to get it submitted in time...my Dad will be passing through the area on Friday and he has asked me to pick up some corn & tomatoes for him from a local farmers' market (the ones from where he lives in SC are terrible, he says). Obviously I don't want to buy them today, but can you or any of the chatters help me out with info about any Northern Virginia farmers' markets (or farm stands) that might be open during the day on Friday? Preferably Fairfax County but I'll drive to Arlington for dear ol' Dad if I have to...

Sally Squires: Hey Fairfax: We'll post a link in a minute to a variety of Farmer's Markets in northern Virginia. And if you run out of time, don't overlook local stores including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Safeway, Giant and more. This time of year, they've got some great fresh produce.

Stay tuned...And have a great time with your father.


Marietta, Ohio: I already submitted some ideas for a circuit, etc, but another thing I've been doing is wearing a pedometer and walking during TV shows. Yes, that's right, just walking around my family room while watching. You can get a lot of steps in this way, and you can't eat while watching!

Sally Squires: You sure can Marietta! In fact, Jack LaLanne has recommended that for about 50 years. And if you don't know about Leslie Sansone's walking videos--as well as others--they're a great option too. I also love listening to books on tape while working out.

Thanks for chiming in.


Washington: I agree that exercise controls the appetite, but in addition to that -- after I work out, I find myself choosing healthy, lower calorie foods so that I don't "undo" the benefit of my workout.

Sally Squires: They really do go hand in hand, don't they? I find the same thing--just another reason to stay active! Thanks for chiming in.


Pumping Iron in Pittsburgh: Good afternoon Sally!

Food find of the week for me, I found andouille sausage made from free range chicken at Costco, and it was great sliced and cooked up with leeks, mushrooms, baby corn and sugar snap peas. I served it over some basmati rice made with some chicken base.

As far as my mood when I do exercise vs. when I don't, not only does my mood shift downwards, but my knee (which had surgery on it 18 months ago) gets much more glitchy. It's very important to keep up with Physical Therapy to maintain an activity level without further injury!

On a good week, where I get to the gym on schedule, and I can get good gardening time in, I can burn about 4,000 extra calories, resulting in about 1/wk weight loss. Prior to the extra yard work, I was really only "maintaining."

Sally Squires: Sounds like a great food find, Pittsburgh. And thanks for the great example of giving us that gardening as a smart "lifestyle" exercise.


washingtonpost.com: Virginia Farmer's Markets virginia.org

Sally Squires: As promised. Hope you find a good farmer's market, Fairfax for your father's visit.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Sally. I'm 8 weeks pregnant. While I haven't had any problems with nausea (thank goodness), I'm still having food issues. First, during the day I am starving. I started by doing what I did before pregnancy (small breakfast, small snack, lunch) but that clearly isn't cutting it. And second, when I get home from work, NOTHING sounds good. So what do I end up eating? Candy (sugary not chocolatey). I know, I know. It's horrible. So my questions are: What could I bring to work to help me get through the day? Trail mix? Nuts? Anything else? And second, could I be putting myself at risk for gestational diabetes with the candy? Any recommendations for foods that would be better? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Congratulations on your expanding family, Silver Spring. How exciting!

The candy won't cause gestational diabetes by itself, but it also doesn't likely have many nutritional attributes either. So you miss some great opportunities for you and your baby.

Think plenty of foods filled with fruit and veggies. So hummus (beans and healthy fat) would be a good choice. Yogurt and other dairy products are packed with protein and calcium--both important for you and your offspring.

You might consider oatmeal with raisins and milk as an evening meal. It's easy on the stomach, filling and you can make it sweet. Pancakes or waffles might be other options for you. Make them whole grain, sweeten with fruit and a little syrup.

Soups could also be tender on your stomach. Ditto for pasta and noodles.

Hope that helps. And hope you'll let us know how it goes.

Thanks for chiming in.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat on a lazy August afternoon. Winners today are Memphis, Cleveland, Vallejo, Just do It and Williamsburg. Please send me your name and U.S. Postal address to leanplateclub@washpost.com. And for faster turnaround, please include winner in the subject line.

Until next week, move more--and eat smart!--with the Lean Plate Club. Thanks again to all. And if you have ever experience food addiction and are willing to talk about, please e-mail me about that too and include your name, phone number and best times to call. Thanks!


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company