T Nation

Help My Mom

Ok all you wonderful women, Im trying to help my mother but she isn’t computer literate so Im coming on here for her.

She is 185 lbs and has a goal to lose 50 pounds in a year. I need nutritional guidance for her. She is trying to eat less calories but is getting no results. She recently bought a $1500 elliptical machine and plans on using it 4 days a week along with her daily walks. I will push her to make sure she is doing her elliptical work but I need advice on a nutrition plan for her, what foods to eat and explanations on why this food and not the other. I know the basics of nutrition but need help putting it all together for her; structurally planning out her meals. Please respond. Thanks

What is her diet like now? If you can make small tweaks over time she may respond better than if you just hand her a brand new eating plan.

Basically, just like you, she ought to be getting about a gram of protein per lb of lean body mass.

She needs to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

She ought to limit her carb sources to foods like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, yogurt… the less processed the better. That doesn’t mean she can’t have a bagel or sandwich occasionally, she just shouldn’t make it a main food group. Simple carbs (white bread, rice, cookies, high sugar foods) cause an insulin spike that makes the body store excess calories as fat. If you avoid the insulin spike, you’ll avoid extra fat storage.

She needs to eat more frequent smaller meals (5-6) and drink plenty of water every day.

Healthy fats are important. She can get those from nuts, nut butters, salmon, fish oil, or avocado to name a few.

Here is why she needs to eat frequently. The metabolism runs two different ways, anabolically and catabolically. When there is a steady source of nutrients the metabolism stays in an anabolic (muscle building/muscle retention) state. When her blood sugar dips too low and for too long (too many hours between meals) the metabolism switches to a catabolic state and begins breaking down muscle stores of glycogen in order to give the blood sugar a boost. You don’t want that, especially not if you are dieting. You want to preserve as much muscle mass as you can. The easiest solution is to eat more frequently.

Healthy fats (saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) will actually help her lose fat. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories, more than twice as much energy as 1 gram of carbs. On one hand that means she needs to be careful how much she consumes, on the other hand it means that she’ll get more energy out of a handful of nuts vs. a handful of crackers and that her body will expend more energy metabolising the fat. I.e. it uses more caloric energy to digest.

So basically:

Protein with every meal

Carbs with breakfast (body is best adapted to use carbs as fuel vs. storing when you first wake up)

Veggies and healthy fats with every other meal during the day

Carbs after working out are also ok… if you’ve had a taxing workout (not just a walk around the block)

To keep it simple she can shoot for a palm sized serving of protein for each meal, a fist sized serving of carbs with breakfast and one or two fist sized servings of veggies with her other meals. Eyeballing things will probably work better initially than counting calories.

She can try things like snacking on raw veggies if she feels bored or hungry as well as eating her meals off of a smaller plate so that she doesn’t feel deprived (small plate makes the meal look bigger).

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head, feel free to post more questions if I forgot to cover something.

Oh yeah, the elliptical and walking are a great start but she could also benefit (and will see faster results) if she incorporates some weight lifting too. More muscle = faster metabolism = faster weight loss = healthier mom.

Thank You! Feel free to send a sample of a what a day of meals would look like on paper…I appreciate your input


I’m a mom that went from 210 to 135. I did it by progressing from Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies to step aerobics while eating whatever I wanted. Got to 180 that way. Then I started watching my food intake, cutting portions and snacks, indoor cycling, running, and “body shaping” classes, by then I was teaching them. Got to 140.
Now I’m on what I guess you could call a “powerlifting” regimen, eating as clean as I can, teaching yoga. Down to 135 and my body looks a lot different.
My food intake is still a big issue- I have a hard time eating what I should. Good luck to your mom, she will learn a lot here. Take care.


I PM’ed you with some ideas.


I am writing this to you because I am doing the same thing with my mother right now.  Going thru this myself, perhaps I can give you some advice since I am in the "thick" of it.  Assuming she is like my mom, she is new to this.  She has tried numerous diets and fads that have come and gone.  That being the case, she may not be convinced that this is possible.  

So you must convince her, which is the key to keeping her on the path and sticking with it. You must make it somewhat easy at first. Dont grill her with the workouts too hard early on, and dont be too much of a stickler with the diet. If she suffers too much early on, she will find it to be too painful and then quit. Start her off slow by changing 1 or 2 habits with her food.

For example, quit/reduce soda or fast food/junk food. Then add in more water. Then add in more veggies. If you try to do too much at once, it will be overwhelming. You will want to make these changes slow and gradual, to the point where she may not even notice. Then with her workouts, begin them relatively easy and progress. Progression could be as simple as 1 extra set, more weight, more reps, smaller rest periods, etc.

She will begin to see how all this changes her shape, and her mental outlook. In my case, my mother (62 yrs old), with no exercise history to speak of is down 20 lbs and plenty of inches. Her shape is coming back and the “tight” clothes are now loose. I have my mom on Low Carb Metabolic Drive, and Flameout. She cut her blood pressure meds in half, and no longer needs cholesterol.

I also make it simple by showing her how to make shakes that are quick, simple, and healthy. 1 scoop Metabolic Drive, handful blueberries, smidge of cinammon, and 1 tsp of flax meal. I do believe without a doubt, that this is key for her long term success and she is now a BELIEVER! Muscle tone which has escaped her, is now visible, and she is hooked and motivated. I say this to you because some are resistant at first. But when results become clear, its not so much of an arm-twist to get them going.

Nice work Maximus! Your mom will really enjoy the coming years of her life with her new body and new outlook.

Haha, I am going to send this page to my mum too, because she is trying to work on her fitness as well. I wouldn’t put her stats here because she would kill me, but she has been doing very well with the calories in vs calories out, but I need to teach her how to deadlift I think!

Its good to see how many people still care about their mum!!

I think the world as we know it would end if my mom would ever let me teach her how to deadlift. She’s convinced that her exercise bike is enough, thank you very much. Plus at her age (51) you really don’t need to build muscle anyway, it’s all about just staying active. Sure mom.