November is here and winter is coming. While a season of hibernation (and holiday overeating) is tempting, it’s also a great time to get started on those fitness and lifestyle goals we’ve been putting off since New Year’s. I’m a firm believer that it’s better late than never.
We had a chance to chat with Lane Hobbs, a registered dietician at Virginia Mason, following a study published in September that found people who use fitness trackers don’t necessarily lose more weight when compared to their counterparts. Lane talked with us about how to effectively utilize those fitness trackers as well as general nutrition, exercise, and de-stressing tips.
Seattleite: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get interested in being a dietician and what kinds of people do you see?
Lane Hobbs: I am a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes prevention and management, renal nutrition and health promotion. In my opinion, I work in the two most exciting departments at Virginia Mason: Endocrinology and the Transplant Center. Most of my day is spent with patients on an individual basis and I get to teach group classes throughout the month too. Doctors refer patients to me so I can help them manage or even prevent diabetes. I also help them with a healthy nutrition plan before and after a transplant. I decided to earn a degree in food and nutrition because I was interested in science and health, but I also wanted to work closely with people, not in a lab. When I saw how my Nutrition 101 instructor’s eyes lit up when she talked about legumes and broccoli, I knew I had found my people. I can talk about food all day. And I do!
I saw the study released by Virginia Mason that found people who use fitness trackers don’t necessarily lose more weight when compared to their counterparts. Why do you think fitness trackers are so popular?
I think we are fascinated by our bodies and we get excited to see evidence of how they work throughout the day. I personally love checking my tracker to see how well I slept, even though I know how I slept by how I feel. There is something satisfying about seeing the data! Some people enjoy the competitive aspect of fitness trackers and comparing themselves to others in a challenge. There is a lot of fun feedback from trackers too, such as learning that you’ve walked the distance from New York to LA or climbed the same number of stairs as the Empire State Building. Convenience is always important as well. It’s quick and easy to have a snapshot of your day with a flick of the wrist or a screen tap.
How would you suggest people who wear Fitbits, Apple Watches, etc. use them to reach fitness and lifestyle goals?
Two key habits to lose weight are to perform adequate exercise and eat the right amount of food (not too much, not too little). Trackers can help with both!
To make sure you are getting adequate exercise, consider lifestyle activity and fitness activity. Trackers are great at helping people know if they are getting at least 10,000 steps daily and this helps with overall lifestyle activity, though lifestyle activity alone is likely not enough for weight loss. For example, many people have active jobs and easily get 10,000 steps on a workday, but they may need additional activity that promotes physical fitness to reach their goals. Fitness activity is activity that raises the heart rate to a moderate intensity level. You’ll know if you’re in a moderate range because you will be able to talk but not sing. We need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, and maybe more like 300 minutes to work toward weight loss or improve fitness.
Many fitness trackers sync with popular nutrition tracking apps or have the capability to track diet intake. This can help people be sure that they are getting the best amount of fuel for their body. Studies have found that people sometimes gain weight when exercising due to the tendency to eat more. It may be psychological (we feel we deserve more food for the activity) or it may be a physiological hunger. In either case, it can get away from us quickly. In general, a 30-60 minute walk does not require much more than a snack, which we may have eaten even without the exercise, so unless it’s strenuous or long-lasting activity it’s unlikely that a person needs additional food. I always give the disclaimer that it is possible to eat too little, so I like trackers because they help people get the right amount of food each day.
If you’re using a tracker and not losing weight it may be worth considering if you need to increase exercise or reduce how much you are eating.
A popular saying is “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Is there truth in that? If so, what are some key elements to include in a breakfast? Is a morning smoothie enough?
It is hard to get all the recommended food groups in less than three meals daily and starting the day with a wholesome meal is a great way to be successful in meeting health goals. We need good fuel to be at our best and breakfast does that for us from the start. In my opinion, it takes three food groups to make a meal. If you’re wondering what to have, I’ll give you a hint: there is always room for plants.
One cup of whole grain cereal, eight ounces of yogurt or milk and a half cup of fruit is one example of a breakfast meal. It could also be an egg, whole grain toast and half an avocado. Smoothies can work, if done carefully. Sometimes people don’t find them satisfying because drinking isn’t as satisfying as chewing. Also, many people use much more fruit than they would ever eat in one sitting, and that can cause the smoothie to be higher calorie than desired.
I’ve heard that not eating three hours prior to bedtime is helpful for reaching weight loss goals. Is there truth in this?
If “calories in” are less than “calories out,” it shouldn’t matter what time people eat. But sometimes people have trouble with evening or nighttime eating habits. I think what may happen is that sometimes people are more susceptible to overeating in the evening or nighttime and that is the real root of the problem. Perhaps they are hungry from not eating enough during the day, or maybe they are distracted by TV, or maybe they have more cheese and chocolate than wine after dinner. If it works for a person to have a cut-off time, then that is OK with me.
What kind(s) of moderate physical activities could you recommend?
Walking is always an inexpensive and readily available choice for most people! Other options that people enjoy are cycling, jogging, swimming and aerobic classes. Anything that gets someone moving and keeps them moving at moderate intensity (can talk but not sing) for at least 10 minutes counts.
These three tips in your video are helpful: Long-term lifestyle changes seem to be more effective. Do you have some suggestions for de-stressing throughout the day?
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for managing stress, so I recommend that from the start. Taking 10-20 minutes during the work day to practice deep breathing, go for a walk, stretch, perform a few yoga poses and read something inspiring can be helpful. Of course, a healthy lunch and maybe a snack for after work can help manage any “hanger” which is stressful for everyone as well.
Lane G. Hobbs, MS, RD, CD
Lane is a registered dietician at Virginia Mason, specializing in diabetes prevention and management, renal nutrition and health promotion.