Focus on reducing fat rather than obsessing ovver what scale shows
Written by Monica Torline
Cristina Moore places two rubbery objects on the kitchen table.
“Eww! What is that?” Noah Reef asks, pointing to a yellowed, gelatinous blob.
Moore, a registered dietician and certified diabetes coordinator at Eisenhower Medical Center, explains the mass about the size of a loaf of bread is a representation of what 5 pounds of fat looks like.
The other — a heavy, red-brown object about the size of a softball — represents 5 pounds of muscle.
“Obesity isn’t being overweight,” Moore says. “It’s being overfat.”
It was the first of many educational exchanges to come over three weekend sessions Moore had with Noah and his family about improving their nutritional habits.
“Eating is one of life’s great pleasures,” she said. “We are creatures of habit, and we get used to doing things certain ways. This is where we’ve gotten into a problem.”
Deborah Reef; her sons, Josh and Noah; and her fiance, Alex Danson, are working with Moore and other health experts from Desert Regional Medical Center as part of The Desert Sun’s Healthy Family Project.
Each person’s body composition was measured during the first meeting with Moore.
Using a simple tool found in most medical offices, she quickly had read-outs of their weight and body fat percentages. She plans to measure weight and fat loss on a monthly basis.
For anyone trying to improve their health, Moore stressed that it’s important not to be obsessed with the scale. Instead, focus on reducing dangerous body fat content, which can cut the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
“Being overweight — none of it hurts. The damage you’re doing, you’re not even aware of it until it’s too late,” she said.
The starting point for Deborah and her family began with a simple task: keeping a food diary.
For the first week, each person tracked when they ate, what they ate and how big their portions were. Moore also had them record how hungry they were before eating:
1 = Not so hungry
2 = Good appetite
3 = Starving
After reading a week’s worth of journal entries, Moore assigned goals for each family member.
Like a lot of kids his age, Noah doesn’t immediately reach for vegetables. And fruit, even less.
His lunch sack often returns with the fruit Deborah packed still there.
“At least he tells me he’s not eating it,” she said. “Some kids just throw it away, and their parents never know.”
Noah complains he won’t have enough time to play if he sits down to eat his entire lunch. The problem, Moore thinks, is that he doesn’t want to “put in the work” to eat nutritiously.
“He doesn’t want to peel the orange,” she said, “but he’ll take a cap off an apple sauce.”
Moore suggested Deborah pack apple sauce and other kinds of fruit cups. The compromise going forward with Noah is that he has to eat the fruit first before touching anything else.
Parents should ask kids what they do like to eat, Moore said. Figure out a way to fit in the nutrition in a form they’ll accept.
In his first chat with Moore, Alex revealed that he sometimes goes as many as 14 hours between meals.
“He goes long stretches, and then when he does eat he can put it away,” Deborah added.
Moore’s homework the first week was for Alex to increase the frequency of his meals. The body goes into “starvation mode” when deprived of food for long periods, and it begins to burn muscle rather than fat.
His food diary the next weekend showed that he was getting in three meals a day.
“My thing with breakfast is that sometimes I don’t have time,” he said. “I wake up and have to get going.”
In that case, Moore suggested he try having handy nutrition drinks, yogurt smoothies or Carnation Instant Breakfast.
“It will give you adequate protein, probably not as many calories as I’d give you for breakfast,” she said. “But it’s breakfast — and definitely better than the donut.”
At first, Deborah said her behavior wasn’t really affected when she started keeping a food diary.
But after two weeks, she acknowledged that she was ordering differently when the family dines out — which is getting to be less and less.
A self-confessed “dipper,” Deborah also is trying to measure out the amount of cocktail sauce and other condiments she uses to pair with food.
“That’s when it’s time to pull out the measuring spoons,” Moore suggested.
By using a predetermined amount, one is less likely to smother food in copious amounts of saturated fat and sodium.
Deborah also used to drink up to five Diet Cokes a day. She’s since cut back and increased her water consumption.
It’s an exciting change for Moore to see.
“Awareness, it’s a start,” she said. “What can you do to make this (meal or snack) better? Every change is going to count.”
In other words
Josh works out daily and makes good choices when it comes to eating. Deborah says he’s a great example for Noah, who likes to keep in step with his big brother.
The lessons Josh has learned in a few sessions with Moore have been getting parceled out to children he works with at an after-school program.
“I told them about the gas thing,” he said, smiling.
At one point, Moore explained to 9-year-old Noah that food is fuel for our bodies. Calories in should at least equal the calories going out with exercise or other exertion.
Holding up the cookies and snacks offered at the after- school program, Josh told the kids there one day that these were “like 87 octane.”
Holding up a piece of fruit, he said, “This is 91, and that means my car’s going to run better than yours.”
The children snatched up the healthier foods before them.
“That’s great!” Moore said. “That’s what it’s all about — making better choices.”