Diet and Weight Loss

Is frozen produce less nutritious than fresh?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, but I don't have time to go to the grocery store every week. So I stock up on frozen produce. Am I missing out on any nutritional benefits by eating frozen instead of fresh?

DEAR READER: For taste, variety and quality of nutrients, recently picked local produce is the way to go. But if fresh produce is inconvenient or beyond your budget, frozen fruits and vegetables provide plenty of nutrition.

Do financial incentives really help people change their health behaviors?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My employer has started offering employees financial rewards for weight loss. I'm skeptical. Does this kind of financial incentive really work?

DEAR READER: Offering financial incentives to employees for making healthy lifestyle changes is increasingly common. These days, nearly 80 percent of large employers do it. There are many ways to offer incentives, and doctors and economists are still learning what works best.

Why did TV’s “Biggest Losers” have trouble keeping the weight off?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I heard about a recent study that explained why the "Biggest Losers" had trouble keeping the weight off. Can you explain?

DEAR READER: You're likely referring to a study done at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As many readers will recall, NBC television put on a competition reality show for several years, beginning in late 2004. Extremely overweight people competed to see who could lose the most weight, through diet and exercise, over 30 weeks.

Can you tell me about different types of abdominal fat?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In a column about abdominal fat, you talked about two kinds of fat -- brown fat and white fat. I'd like to hear more about them.

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked, because the discovery of these two types of fat could prove to be very important. In the column you refer to, I discussed how visceral, or abdominal, fat (which accumulates deep inside the abdomen) is more harmful to our health than subcutaneous fat (the fat just beneath the skin). But when it comes to fat, it's not just location that matters. Color counts, too -- and brown is better.

Is there any evidence that mobile health apps actually work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: There are so many health-oriented apps for mobile devices these days. But is there any evidence that they actually work?

DEAR READER: The number of health-related apps for mobile devices has exploded in recent years. The most popular ones monitor physical activity. Others deliver helpful reminders or information through text messages. Various apps aim to help you lose weight, monitor your blood pressure, manage your diabetes or quit smoking.

Are organic foods healthier than non-organic?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Many of my friends buy only organic foods. But are they really healthier than non-organic?

DEAR READER: Organic crops are grown without most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic animal products are free of antibiotics and hormones. Many people believe these foods are better for them. But we really don't know that they are.

What are considered bad carbs?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You talk about "good carbs" and "bad carbs" in your column. Since I know new studies sometimes change thinking, I'm wondering if "bad carbs" are still bad -- because I like eating them.

DEAR READER: I've got some bad news for you. If anything, the case against bad carbs is growing stronger. To refresh everyone's memory, let's distinguish good carbs from bad carbs. Carbohydrates are found in a broad range of foods; some are healthy and some aren't. Table sugar, fruits and vegetables, and grains such as rice and wheat are all carbs. But they aren't equal in how they affect your body.

What are some healthy habits to help manage your weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: One popular book claims that there are "7 habits of highly effective people." Do people who effectively lose weight and keep it off also have habits in common?

DEAR READER: That's a very interesting question -- and I think the answer is "yes." There are certain "habits" that help, but only if you make a long-term commitment to them. Lasting weight loss demands that you transform your eating and exercise habits. But many other choices you make each day can also make a difference. What follows are several habits that can help people achieve -- and maintain -- their target weight.

Is it possible to be obese and healthy at the same time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is it possible to be obese and healthy at the same time?

DEAR READER: I call questions like yours "Could I get lucky?" questions. Basically, these questions ask: "If I do (or ignore) something that puts me at great risk, could I get away with it?" The answer to those questions almost always is: Yes, it's possible -- but don't hold your breath. In my opinion, an important part of living is taking account of the odds. You may weigh the odds and decide that you want to do something risky anyway: It's just that important to you.