Lean Plate Club

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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 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.

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Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! I'm just back from Baltimore where I gave a speech to National Public Health Information Coalition about the Lean Plate Club. And they, bless them, gave me a standing ovation. So I hope all of you will also bask in this praise of what we are doing. (And if you'd ever like me to speak to your group, please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com.)

The LPC e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-boxes right now.

Now on to the chat!


Not Restin', Va.: Hi Sally! My husband and I have just started a new diet and exercise plan and are already feeling better about ourselves. We just started Week 2 of the "Couch to 5K" exercise plan, and we are using the book that goes along with alli as a baseline for healthier meal planning. We are not actually taking alli, but the book helps us plan meals. We've gotten much better with our portion sizes, and having a calorie and fat budget has helped us make much better choices in what we "spend" our calories on.

My question is: I've been using caloriecount.com to help figure out calories in what we eat (when we don't have a label), and to keep a tally through the day, but I'm finding it unwieldy to use. Can you, or the others recommend other Web sites where you can look up foods, and keep a log of what you eat? Thanks

Sally Squires: Congratulations on what you're doing! And it's great that you're doing this together as a couple. Studies suggest that can be very helpful at long-term success. (Don't be surprised, however, if your husband loses weight a bit faster than you do. Sad to say, we ladies have a higher percentage body fat at all weights than men and lower muscle mass. So it can take us a bit longer to lose weight.)

There are some free sites: Fit Day, Nutrition Data (but I just saw a note saying that they have been having some recent technical difficulties), Mypyramid Tracker, Nutrition Diary, Spark People. The list goes on and on. Calorie King also has some new calorie tracking sources available.

If you want to ante up some cash, Diet Mate, Diet Power and Weight Watchers are others. We'll try to post links in a minute.

If there are other favorites out there, please send them our way.



The REAL Biggest Loser, Washington, DC: I have to confess, I do get sucked into watching "The Biggest Loser" on an occasional basis. I once weighed more than 300 pounds so I identify with the contestants. I root for all of them to lose "big" -- even though I know 2 pounds is more realistic than the 10, 15 or even 20 pounds some of them lose per week. However, I read that these people are exercising as much as 5-6 hours per day (which is unrealistic in the outside world) and their food is measured and prepared for them.

On the shows I've seen, it doesn't appear that any of the contestants receive help in understanding why they overeat in the first place. It's easy to learn what and how much we're supposed to eat -- but extremely difficult to overcome emotional or addiction issues that cause us to overeat. The recent "Where Are They Now" show featuring past winners was interesting as last year's winner had re-gained over 40 pounds -- yet was celebrated for keeping off "some" of the weight he'd lost.

I firmly believe if you don't address the underlying issues, no diet in the world will help you. I attribute my success (over 155 pounds lost) to not only learning the correct way to eat, but also receiving therapy from an excellent counselor and attending a weekly weight loss support group. Although I applaud the contestants' successes, I think "The Biggest Loser" does more harm than good - it does not adequately portray all the hard work, both physical and mental, that successful weight loss requires.

Sally Squires: Wow. 155 pounds lost and kept off. Very impressive. Congratulations. I, too, have mixed feelings about "The Biggest Loser", but the show does seem to have evolved in a positive way since it first was introduced in 2004.

Like you, I looked with some dismay at the weight regain, particularly of last season's winner, Ryan Chopin, who lost 214 pounds and gained $250,000 for this efforts. But after talking to him and a couple of other contestants, it became clear that the lowest weight -- something they call the "wow" weight -- is for the finale. Poppi Kramer, who lost 125 pounds last season at home, said she weighed her "wow" weight for about 15 minutes. But she and Ryan and Kelly -- all featured today -- have either maintained a steady healthy weight, or in the case of Kelly, actually dropped more weight.

Yes, it's still soon for long term follow-up, but from my interviews with them, it sounds like they're really doing good habits.

Thanks for weighing in with us today with your perspective.


Washington, D.C.: How did they get the double digit weight loss on "The Biggest Loser"? How many hours were the participants exercising? I find the number of pounds lost astounding.

Sally Squires: Yes, I agree. Safe weight loss is generally considered 0.5 to 2 pounds per week. But remember, this is television and it's a competition. Plus, the participants are quite large when they start. So it's not unusually for the heaviest people to lose the largest amounts -- at first.

The contestants I interviewed said that the workouts were the biggest shock. They exercised rigorously for four to six hours a day. As Ryan said, if you should watch these workouts out in all their glory it would be like watching paint dry.

It's hard to keep this level of activity up at home when you work and have a family. But remember, most of the BL participants are doing nothing but working on their weight in a controlled environment. So that's how those big losses are possible and aren't that likely at home.

Plus, contestants told me that nearly everyone had weeks where they either didn't lose or lost minimal amounts and had worked just as hard at activity and counting calories.

Hope that is illuminating. Thanks


Holmdel, N.J.: I love to make dinosaur kale - First I chop it and boil it in slightly salted water, then I saute it in a little bit of olive oil with plenty of garlic and a some red pepper flakes (I'm a huge garlic fan so I usually use a lot -- much to my husband's chagrin). You can limit the amount of oil you use by adding a little bit of the water from boiling the kale.

Once it's cooked, I'll eat it with a generous sprinkling of parmesan (or other grated) cheese -- or it's also good mixed in with whole wheat pasta. Sometimes I'll add turkey sausage as well.

After I boil the kale, the water is always a little green - are there any nutrients to speak of in that? If I'm making pasta, I'll use that water to cook the pasta. Am I getting any benefit other than saving a bit of water and energy?


Sally Squires: Thanks very much, Holmdel. We'll post a link in a minute for dinosaur kale for those, who, like me, aren't familiar with this variety.

And for those who have not yet read their LPC e-mail newsletter, I included a request from a member for kale and Swiss chard recipes (and included some links to some great sounding dishes). Thanks for your tips.


Fairfax, Va.: Regarding the newsletter question about cooking swiss chard and kale...I belong to a CSA, too, and it's getting to be that leafy green time of year again! Like most of us, I don't have much time for cooking, and I also love my veggies without too much fuss. Even though chard and kale seem tough, they submit well to my normal method of cooking greens: Just lightly saute a few cloves of minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add washed greens with a bit of water clinging to them, and cover. The tiny amount of water and the natural water from the greens is enough to steam it nicely-- not as tenderly as spinach, say, but more interesting!

At the end I add a dash of salt, pepper, and ground red chilies.

I also wanted to write to you about another fall-CSA obsession of mine: sweet potato wedges. We all know how to do these, right? Just cut peeled sweet potatoes in wedges, toss in a bowl with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices as you like (I've experimented with red chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and more!), and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees...I could eat these daily! Some people use cooking spray, which probably adds even less fat.

Thanks for the chat! I look forward to getting new recipes, since as you can see, my repertoire is very basic!

Sally Squires: We can all expand our culinary repertoires. Last night, inspired by a recipe that I saw in Real Simple, I made Halibut steaks. Since I didn't have all the ingredients, I improvised with other things on hand -- cilantro, cumin, cherry tomatoes, garlic, a little olive oil, olives -- and we had spaghetti squash as a side dish. Yum. You never know when you experiment, but both my husband must say, both my husband and I were pleasantly surprised by the results.

For those who don't know about CSA, find more details in today's LPC newsletter.


New Orleans: Hi Sally,

I LOVE Kale. It is so nutritious and has lots of assertive flavor. Cook's Illustrated did an article year's ago on cooking greens like kale, collards, and mustards. My technique is adapted from that article.

1. Pour two quarts of water in a large pot. Heat to boiling.

2. Meanwhile, wash your kale by holding the leaf upside down over a full sink of water. With your other hand strip the leaf away on either side of the stem. Continue with your entire bunch of kale and throw the stems away or compost them. Swish the leaves around in the water.

2. Put wet kale into boiling water. Boil 7 minutes.

3. Drain kale and run cool water over kale, so that you can comfortably handle the hot leaves.

4. Squeeze kale leaves by the handful to remove excess water. After squeezing each handful, place kale on cutting board and shred the kale with a large knife.

5. In a skillet, heat a little olive oil with some crushed red pepper and minced garlic. You might add lots of shredded or minced onions as well. Cook until soft, then add shredded kale. Stir to coat and add 1/3 cup broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes or until broth is absorbed by kale.

6. Turn off heat and squeeze generous amounts of lemon juice over cooked kale.

Note -- you can always parboil the kale, squeeze dry, and wrap the balls in plastic wrap. These can be stored in the fridge a few days or frozen for later use. The pre-cooked kale can be shredded later for use in omelets, quiches, or pasta.

Hope this helps someone enjoy kale!

New Orleans

Sally Squires: Thanks New Orleans! Sounds delicious.


washingtonpost.com: World's Healthiest Foods -- Kale

Sally Squires: Here's a description of kale and dinosaur kale as promised...






MyPyramid Tracker

Weight Watchers

Diet Mate

Calorie King

Sally Squires: As promised, sites to help you record your calories. They do the numbers for you.


Lewiston, Calif.: When "The Biggest Loser" started airing a few years ago, I was aghast. As a morbidly obese person of over 300 pounds, I hated the thought of reality TV mocking fat people and making their struggles entertainment for America.

Well, then I actually watched the show. And I was awed and inspired by their journey. Yeah, some of the challenges are a little over the top, but not out of line. The trainers and people working with these people truly care about them and encourage them to achieve their goals.

Yes, it's not realistic for those of us at home to exercise 4-6 hours per day. We have real jobs, families, lives to attend. But every time I watch this show, I gain inspiration from it.

In fact, since last year, I've lost over 124 pounds. I still have a bit to go, but I feel a thousand times better. I've done this creating my own plan, but also using the free site, SparkPeople.com for accountability and weight loss tools. And I continue to watch "The Biggest Loser," both the first runs and the reruns to help keep up my motivation. Good job, NBC and "The Biggest Loser" crew!

Sally Squires:124 pounds! That's wonderful Lewiston. And I'm with you, the show has grown on me.

I still don't like those very public weigh-ins, where they put participants in tight clothing which magnifies their weight. But Ryan Chopin said that it actually helped him with accountability. Kelly Minner, however, a finalist on season one, said that they opted not to participate in the reunion show because of that very public weigh-in. She feels the focus should be more on the habits, than the weight.

Anyway, when I spoke to various people involved with the show, they are very committed to helping people lose weight. Thanks for weighing in with us today and continued success with your efforts.


Austin, Tex.: Comment on "Biggest Loser" show.

I am morbidly obese and have tried everything in the universe, with the exception of surgery.

This season is the first time I have watched B.L. I found myself tuning in again but not DVRing it. I found nothing offensive and at times, found myself cheering and rooting for the "losers."

However, it concerned me that some of the comments, and I take into consideration editing, the contestants made about themselves were self-deprecating, beating themselves up due ONLY a 5 pound loss.

It has merit for team support and entertainment value, as well as education, but in the wrong self esteem, may end up encouraging another eating disorder to gain kudos from America.

Would I go on the show? In a heart beat. Could I woo America into cheering for me? Who knows. Would I feel pressure to restrict food so I could lose more weight at national weigh in? You bet.

Sally Squires: You raise an excellent point about the palpable disappointment when people "only lose two or three pounds" -- a healthy rate of weight loss. Also, note that women are often the ones who don't lose as much. The show never talks about pre-menstrual water weight gain or other hormonal shifts that are a real factor for women of child bearing ages. So yes, there is a danger that this intensive and fast weight loss on air runs the risk of making regular weight loss look a little uninspiring.

You might want to look on the Web site about Poppi Kramer, who did all her weight loss at home last season. She had a more of a "real world" experience that you may find helpful. Also, you might take a look at the Successful Losers section of the Lean Plate Club Web site. There's a lot of inspiration there too. Ditto for magazines including Shape, which feature success stories. Good luck with your efforts. You can do this and we're here to cheer you on every step of the way.


Oakton, Va.: These "weight loss" TV shows exploit the unhappiness and distress that these overweight contestants are experiencing. Seems to me that it's terribly abusive to tempt someone like that with a few dollars, or 15 minutes of fame, and expose their quest to all the voyeurs who get their kicks from that sort of thing. Yes, we know it's "voluntary." But that's no excuse for dragging these people into a spotlight for the rest of us to examine like a grasshopper under a magnifying glass.

-- from Slightly Overweight Myself

Sally Squires: I was surprised to learn that nearly 300,000 people applied to be on last year's show alone. And the idea that there are open casting calls was a bit of a surprise to me as well. But apparently, this is quite routine for all the "reality" shows. By the way, 300,000 also happens to be the estimated weight-related deaths that occur annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Albany, N.Y.: A question about fiber: I make a fruit smoothie in the morning using frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries and a fresh banana. Does the fact that I put the fruit in the blender and press "puree" impact the amount of fiber in my smoothie? Thanks.

Sally Squires: Blending should not make a much of a difference in fiber content. And aren't those smoothies delicious -- and filling?

Happy sipping.


Anonymous: My daughter is not enthusiastic about exercise but needs to lose some weight. What do you think of the combination of 30 minutes on the treadmill nightly, along with a Weight Watchers-style meal plan for a teenager? She's about 25-30 pounds overweight and pretty discouraged. My husband and I will be working along with her, though we don't have quite as much to lose.

Sally Squires: What you're suggesting is a very reasonable plan. And your daughter might enjoy doing Weight Watchers online. Doing this as a family is also a very smart move, even if you don't have as much weight to lose. My first book -- "The Stoplight Diet for Children" -- was based on a 10-year program developed at the University of Pittsburgh. Overweight kids did best when the whole family went on the program together and changed their habits together.

A couple of things to think about: help your daughter establish a (non food) reward to work for each week. It could be a manicure, a new CD or iTunes download, a magazine or book. An outing to a movie. You get the idea. (You can establish rewards for you and your husband too.) Just make sure that you give them based on the habits -- not on what the scale says. So it could be that she measured and recorded her food all week and stuck within a given calorie goal. Or it could be that she 30 minutes of activity every day. You get the idea.

Just avoid, if you can, the temptation to focus progress solely on the scale, which can set up some disappointment, since weight is rarely a neat, downward line and elevate the importance of the numbers on the scale.

Hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Long Beach, Calif.: As to your question of "do you think that 'The Biggest Loser' helps promote fat stigma?," I hope it does. Fat has become way too accepted in this country and as a result, diabetes and heart disease are rampant and children are more likely to die before their parents.

Sally Squires: Well, last week the show was one of the top rated for its time slot. So lots of people seem to be watching. And I hope the show and things like the Lean Plate Club can be part of a healthy movement to get more people back to healthier habits and a healthier weight. Thanks!


So frustrated: Is there a place in the area where you can get your metabolic rate tested? I am very, very frustrated. I'm following a 1,100-1,300 calorie diet. I weigh and measure every single thing I eat and track it, and cook everything myself so I know exactly what goes into it. According to Fitday, I should be burning about 3,000 calories a day, since I'm not very active. If all this is true, then 3,000-1,300= 1,700 calorie deficit a day. If 1 lb equals 3,500 calories, then I should be losing a couple of pounds a week. But, I'm lucky if I lose 1/2 a pound a week. I am beyond frustrated and ready to toss in the towel. I'm not exercising much, so I don't think I'm building muscle. Any idea what I could be doing wrong? I have about 80 pounds to lose to get to a good BMI and am a 38-year-old female if any of that should factor into the equation.

Sally Squires: I can feel your frustration. It is extremely difficult to be doing so many things right and still not see the results you want.

First, have you had a physical exam recently? If not, consider getting one to rule out any number of medical conditions that might be contributing to your problems. And where are you in your menstrual cycle? That can play a big role in water retention.

Two: how long have you been doing these wonderful new habits? You didn't gain those 80 pounds overnight. You won't lose them that way either.

Three, you can have your resting metabolic rate measured, but most experts I've talked to say, it's not that important. And it will set you back at least $100. RMR, for those who don't know this term, gives an estimate of what your body needs just to exist.

So why not set a reasonable amount of daily calories and boost your activity a bit? The fact that you are not getting much exercise -- let's put aside the weight training for a minute -- means that you're not taking full advantage of the opportunity to burn more calories. Look for ways to even just stand up frequently during the day. Fidget. That burns a few calories too. And if you can walk five minutes every hour, you'll get 40 minutes of activity in an eight-hour work day. Those small amounts of activity can add up big time.

For an estimate of how many calories you need: take your weight. Multiple by 12 = amount for you to stay even. So if you weight 150 that's 1,800 calories. Subtract 250 and add 250 in activity. That could work out to about a pound of weight lost per week.

And if you can do some weight training -- take a look at Miriam Nelson's Strong Women.com web site or books -- will help you tone. (It takes a while to build muscle.) When your clothes feel looser, that will also give you a sense of your progress.

Hang in there. Please let us know how it goes. Thanks.


South Houston, Texas: The "Biggest Loser" is not the way to show the general public how to lose weight. So many people, self included, are not physically able to do all the physical work the show portrays as "exercise," and with some others just their metabolism has so much control, that the show is really depressing for those who try so hard and can't succeed. It's just another farce, like the other reality shows.

Sally Squires: Absolutely right that it's important to know that these show are still entertainment. Thanks for chiming in.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Sally! I had a strange experience this morning. I ate my usual grapefruit and bowl of cereal. I got to work and I was just so hungry. So I ate an apple. Then half an ounce of almonds. Then a can of black bean soup, unsalted Health Valley cereal - all by 9 a.m.! But my stomach still felt empty and I felt as if I were starving. I threw in a single serving of Chex Mix and a 100-calorie fruit smoothie. Total - 1,000 calories by 9:30 a.m., and I still didn't feel "satisfied." What was this? I ate a normal amount of food yesterday and didn't do any cardio work this morning, just a little light weight training. How can I prevent this from happening again?

Sally Squires: Gas can make you feel "hungry" and give you that gnawing feeling. Also, how much sleep did you get last night? Getting enough zz's can have a huge effect in controlling hunger, and in stoking appetite if you are sleep deprived.

Another possibility: are you feeling any stress? That can contribute too.

Sounds like you did all the right things. You might take a look at "Volumetrics" by Barbara Rolls. Chewing gum might help in the future. You might also make a cup of hot tea, although that bean soup was a very smart move. Your body may just need some extra food today. See how it goes tomorrow. And I feel like a broken record today, but if you happen to be female, where are you in your menstrual cycle?


Fairfax, Va.: What I hope is that "The Biggest Loser" and the Lean Plate Club and other media focusing on weight loss can help remove the stigma of eating healthy! Last night at Weight Watchers, someone mentioned that at 7-Eleven, in addition to the hot dogs and nachos, he saw apples for sale, and little packs of celery and carrots. I'm very encouraged by healthy eating options in unlikely places, because it makes it so much easier to stick to my plan.

Sally Squires: That's my hope too Fairfax. I think we REALLY can be a movement for health. Who says that we always have to celebrate with food? Why not a walk. Or many other soothing types of activities?

Thanks for chiming in.


re: So Frustrated: I think that poster has a serious problem in how he/she calculates how many calories he/she burns in one day. If he/she is NOT active, then there's no way that he/she is burning 3000 calories.

Sally Squires: Good point, but you're only thinking of someone who is at a relatively healthy weight. For someone who weighs 300 or more pounds, 3,000 calories is only 10 times the weight, so that would be in the ballpark.


Silver Spring, Md.: I watched and was fascinated by the Discovery Health's series, "The Truth About Food." For the past few days I have been trying to eat something small every 2 hours. Not only am I eating less but I have more energy and am not "starving" by lunch time. It does take a lot more planning but is well worth it so far.

Sally Squires: Small meals can be a great option for many people. For some, however, the challenge is in making those meals "small." If one doesn't control the calories, it can be like a nonstop feast. So it's important to find balance in everything.


Manhattan: Have you ever had "kale" chips? they are great! simply toss kale pieces with a liberal (or not so much) amount of olive oil and spices. (to taste). Then bake in oven at 350-400 temp. for about 20 minutes. Great, crispy and healthy treats when you want something salty.

Sally Squires: I have actually had kale chips and they are good! Thanks for the suggestion. (And I first learned about them on this very chat from another Lean Plate Club member.)


Baltimore: "Fat has become too accepted?" You've GOT to be kidding me. There's a tremendous stigma to being overweight, and everyone knows it already. The resulting feelings of depression, hopelessness, and lack of self-worth can be a huge barrier to making positive changes, especially for women.

Sally Squires: It certainly can, and it's one reason by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said that if he is elected president, he will work to amend the Americans for Disabilities Act to cover people who are obese. On the other hand, I suspect what the previous poster may have meant is that as the population gets larger, it becomes a bit more acceptable to be, well, bigger.

For example, did you know that dress sizes have grown through the years, so that the size 8 of today is likely the size 10 of 20 years ago?

Thanks for chiming in.


Gaylord, Mich.: As a Registered Dietitian I'm pleased that ""The Biggest Loser"" emphasizes increased activity, but I'm afraid the more important change is behavioral, which has to be evaluated after the weight is lost. Are these people continuing their activity after the cameras stop rolling?

Sally Squires: Many of them are. And at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association, I believe that there is a talk from a registered dietitian who may have advised the show. Also, the physician who works with the show is collecting data on participants and hopes to publish some of his findings in a scientific journal. That will be interesting, don't you think? Thanks for chiming in today.


Counting calories online: Hi Sally -

For No Restin', I just started using MyPyramid Tracker for that same purpose, after having tried and failed several times with Nutridiary because of the time it took to enter everything. I have been really pleased with MyPyramid Tracker's interface: it is a whole lot faster to put in food than Nutridiary, and the foods database is broader. The only thing that I didn't find in there yet was foie gras, but then, in that case, I am not sure I want to know anyway!

Sally Squires: Thanks very much for the feedback and comparison. And you're right, that foie gras will likely be pretty high in cholesterol, fat and calories. But it certainly is good every once in a while!


the biggest diet: I was stunned to read that many of the participants are exercising 6-plus hours a day and only consuming about 1,100 calories. I guess that's how they achieve that rapid weight loss, but they must be absolutely starving for the entire duration of the show!! (I'm a woman who exercises 1-2 hours a day, and really struggle to get my caloric intake even down to 2,000 calories a day, and this is for those days where I'm eating very fibrous, filling, healthy foods).

Sally Squires: The women on the show consume between 1,100 to about 1,500 calories daily. Then men apparently are eating around 1,700 to 2,000 calories. And you're right: it's not a huge amount, but that's the way they get those (sometimes) double digit drops in weight per week. Thanks.


AG-Lanham, Md.: Two weeks ago a lady on the red team who weighed 225 lost 20 pounds and the 62-year-old grandfather lost 31 pounds in a week. My personal trainer said those results are not humanly possible. Is that true?

Sally Squires: They have to be humanly possible because they are recorded, filmed and apparently monitored by the Federal Communications Commission. But they are quite large and likely not very reproducible at home (at least under normal living conditions.) Thanks.


Woodbridge, Va.: I think competitive weight loss shows are excellent! Whatever it takes to get folks off the couch, away from the drive-thru and making healthier choices in life should be encouraged. I do not think these type of shows encourage being "skinny," but healthier! I am encouraged each time I watch Biggest Loser. Each time I see the contestants working so hard, with twice the amount of weight I'm carrying, I feel no need to whine about my small obstacles. Keep up the great work, and keep shows like this coming! I wish they'd come up with a show like this for those trying to lose that last 30 lbs! Now that would be a huge hit!

Sally Squires: Well, the way that reality shows are appearing these days, who knows what could be on air? Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: I wanted to comment on the Obesity Epidemic mentioned in your column today. I did a thesis project for my master's in HR development on Obesity in the workplace; American employers spend over $13B per year in obesity related costs such as health care, unplanned absence, and turnover. It's staggering and threatens our standing in the economic world more than most of the more widely publicized issues we have (in my opinion!) Most Americans are either overweight or obese, which is only 40 lbs over ideal. Our kids are the most obese in history, many with high BP and other adult-type diseases. If we as a society don't get a handle on this and come up with some solutions, we are in deep trouble indeed. And, as for "The Biggest Loser" I find the show inspiring (although I am a WW lifetime member at my ideal weight, or maybe because of that...)

What do you think we can do as a society to address the obesity issue, Sally?

Sally Squires: Sounds like a very interesting thesis. No question that rising health care costs are poised to get the obesity epidemic a lot more attention from employers to politicians. Not only is Richardson interested in the obesity epidemic, But Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and head of the National Gov's Council, lost 100-plus pound himself. I know from interviewing him that this is big on his agenda as he makes a run for the White House on the Republican side.

I hope that the Lean Plate Club -- from the column to these online chats -- can help with the momentum to shift society towards a healthier weight. We've made huge strides with smoking, so there's a model to follow.



Chevy Chase, Md.: I'd like to put in a vote FOR "Biggest Loser." I have lost 75 lbs in one year (to the day - as of today) and I did it through healthy eating and exercise. I find this show to be inspiring though a bit unrealistic because who has that much time to exercise? But it is great to see people getting healthy through healthy eating and exercise. I feel terrific - physically and mentally - and looking forward to staying healthy for the rest of my life. I don't see people who did it through bypass or other methods feeling this fantastic, or even feeling healthy, whereas the people on "Biggest Loser" really seem to have the key to being healthy for the long term. Together with the Dr. Oz programs, I'm finding a great deal of encouragement and support on the boob tube (when I'm not glued to the PBS cooking programs and "No Reservations" -- a girl can dream, right?).

Sally Squires: We all need dreams! And congratulations on those 75 pounds. Very impressive and inspiring. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

Congratulations on your standing ovation. I'm sure you felt your work appreciated, as it is.

Could you give me an idea of what the amount of food that a typical woman should eat? I'm trying to get a sense of what each of my meals should look like (quantity of food). I suppose I should say for weight loss, not just maintenance.

Sally Squires: Thanks very much. I was really touched by the group this morning. There's a great site that will help you tailor your intake. Check out My Pyramid -- sister site to My Pyramid Tracker. Both are run by the Department of Agriculture and both are based on the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. It's your tax dollars at work!


Phoenix: Obese people should NOT get the same benefits as the "handicapped." Obesity is self-induced; sad but true. Can you imagine? We'd have to provide couches for drunks at work because they'd be falling out of their chairs. I admire much of what Gov. Richardson says but this one is completely off the mark.

Sally Squires: I suspect that this is just the start of discussions about this very topic. Thanks for weighing in Phoenix.


Atlanta: The obesity epidemic should be on the platform of issues for the presidential debate but obesity should NOT be classified as a disability. At some point, everyone needs to take personal responsibility for their health and this is another way to pass the buck onto the government. Classifying obesity as a disability is an easy way to create a bigger problem.

Sally Squires: That's two in the "don't do this" column. Thanks Atlanta.


Laurinburg NC: Disability is the lack of a particular ability and we should be careful what we categorize as such. Obesity is no different from other addictions - substance, gambling, alcohol, tobacco - and the threat that it will control one's life instead of one controlling it. Disability should be reserved for blindness, paralysis, loss of limb, etc., and not lack of impulse control.

Sally Squires: Make that three. Thanks!


Green Bay, WI: Instead of focusing on antidiscrimination legislation, how about more emphasis on how our country can actually deal with the obesity epidemic. It's about behavior change and making a life long commitment to eating healthy and doing the right things to manage your weight and your health.

Sally Squires: And I think that's a fourth vote for NOT making obesity a disability. Thanks.


Potomac, Md.: I love ""The Biggest Loser""! I have quite a bit of weight to lose and can identify with the contestants. I think the show is extremely positive. They don't gloss over the fact that losing weight requires a total behavioral shift -- mentally, physically and emotionally. And sending the finalists home at the end to continue in the real world is very responsible.

I don't miss it but I have to do one thing while watching -- exercise! I am not "allowed" to watch unless I doing something, even if it is just marching in place or simple strength moves.

Sally Squires: Great strategy to get activity while you watch. Reminds me of the inspiring fitness guru Jack LaLanne, nearly 93 years young! Good luck with your efforts. Hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Greenville, S.C.:"The Biggest Loser" does make it a competition, but hopefully the show's popularity inspires people. Each season, my wife and I look at our eating habits and our weights. It's a great annual check now.

Sally Squires: That sounds like a smart way to enjoy the entertainment and get something out of the show. Thanks Greenville!


Salt Lake City: I've only seen "The Biggest Loser" once. I think its demeaning to make the women wear those sports bras, and to have the men remove their shirts for the weigh in. The premise of the show should not be to humiliate these people.

Sally Squires: Those things bother me too, Salt Lake. Thanks for chiming in today.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

How important is it to get variety in your diet? I eat the exact same thing for lunch everyday (an apple with 20 almonds) because I can't think of anything as easy (and doesn't need refrigeration) that is also as nutritious. Is this ok as long as I don't get bored?

Sally Squires: Variety is great for nutritional aspects. But if you're eating a balanced diet and this works for you, keep it up. The downside of variety is that if makes food more interesting and when food is more interesting we also tend to eat more, as studies show. Hope that helps.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners today are Lewiston, New Orleans, 155 pounds--the real biggest loser and So Frustrated. Please send your name and U.S. Postal address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line for faster handling.

If you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club in your local newspaper--more than six million readers can do that now--please let me know at leanplateclub@washpost.com. Just send your name and local newspaper to that e-mail address and please put local newspaper in the subject line.

Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club! Thanks to all.


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