Pacific Northwest | June 29, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineJune 29, home
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Ask R7  Calories and weight, knee pain and elastic bands, recumbent exercise and obesity

The name of this column is a little misleading. Sure you can ask me questions, but I'm not the best person to answer them. I will, however, ask the experts and try to report back here.
Calories and weight

For instance, Carolyn Walden, a reader from Seattle, asked, "How soon after a person eats a high-calorie item is the person's weight affected? Right after the meal? The next morning? After two days?"

The bad news, according to the American Dietetic Association, is that there is no magic wand for controlling weight. The good news is that it's not rocket science. The calories you burn must equal the calories you consume. If not, you gain weight.

One pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories. You can easily make changes in your weight over time if you break down the number. Experts say shoot for small changes. Eat 250 to 500 fewer calories every day. By week's end, you'll have changed your weight by a half-pound to one pound. Making a 250-calorie change is as simple as walking briskly for 40 minutes or cutting back on pasta by one cup. Combine the two and save even more calories.

There is a lifestyle component to weight management. You have to combine physical activity with eating right. Someone who wants to lose weight must understand that no one food or one type of activity is going to make the difference. It's about your habits over time.

Reading labels is valuable for learning how to lower cholesterol, manage weight, control diabetes and deal with a number of other issues. A meal plan that incorporates at least 25 grams of fiber per day from a multitude of foods (fruits/veggies/whole grains/beans) works well.

Dina Kuolt, fitness-center manager for Valley Medical Center, encourages patients to eat at home more and dine out less. But if you must go out, she offers these tips:

• Look for "buzzwords" indicating high fat (buttered, fried, pan-fried, crispy, deep-fried, breaded, creamed, cream/cheese sauce, hollandaise, gravy, au gratin).

• Ask for dressings, toppings and gravies on the side.

• Hold the mayo and cheese.

• Skip the butter on bread or rolls.

• Have a low-calorie/low-fat snack before you dine out.

• Order a garden/vegetable salad as a starter.

• Skip the "jumbo," "super-sized," "meal deals."

• Share a meal or order a la carte.

• Get a doggie bag after eating half the meal.

• Stop eating when you're satisfied, and take your time.

Emily Edison, a registered dietician, cautions people to avoid extreme dieting, often called yo-yo dieting, because it can actually make weight gain easier. Consult an expert, she says, to create a plan that works for individual needs, but, in general, think balance. If you like high-calorie foods, balance them with lower-calorie foods like vegetables. If you choose to have a piece of cheesecake after lunch, you may want to choose a lower-calorie salad with a protein source for dinner.

Knee pain and elastic bands

Responding to a column on knee pain, another reader wanted to know how to do exercises with elastic bands

Maren Erickson of The Ballet Studio says her exercise classes use the bands along with Pilates. "The suggestion that people do 20 to 30 minutes a day with bands seems unreasonable and unnecessary. Too boring and repetitive! I find that the combination of live music and diverse exercises keeps people moving and improving conditions such as knee pain."

Jennifer Bergquist, owner of the Magnolia Athletic Club, recommends checking first with an orthopedic physician to determine your type of knee pain. Then see a physical therapist who specializes in knees or a personal trainer with knee-joint experience. They can teach you which types of resistance are best and how to do them effectively; they can also provide exercise sheets with pictures as well as number of reps and sets.

Recumbent exercise and obesity

Another reader asked for a recommendation on a recumbent exercise that would accommodate her 60-year-old father, whom she called obese. He's also got bad knees. His doctor recommended the recumbent bike to lessen impact, but none of the models she investigated seemed suitable for big folks.

Rebecca Olin, a fitness trainer at the Juanita Bay Club, suggests a look at the NuStep TRS 4000 Recumbent Cross Trainer, which she says will accommodate exercisers weighing up to 400 pounds. The NuStep is similar to a recumbent bike, but it allows the exerciser an option to move his or her arms while pedaling.

"The total body workout should not deter the beginner," Olin said.

You can review the company's products at

Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Paul Schmid is a Seattle Times staff artist.

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