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G Force | Joan Buchbinder

A realist’s resolve

Joan Buchbinder, a longtime practitioner, has been a nutrition adviser to some stellar bodies in the region: the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots. Joan Buchbinder, a longtime practitioner, has been a nutrition adviser to some stellar bodies in the region: the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots. (Jeff Lesse)
By Bella English
Globe Staff / January 6, 2010

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As a nutritionist with a private practice in Newton, Joan Buchbinder is busy this time of year with clients who are adamant that this is the year they’re going to get in better shape. They’re going to eat healthier, exercise more, drop fat, and build muscle. Buchbinder, who has 25 years of experience, is also the team nutritionist for the Boston Celtics, and for 17 years, served the same role for the New England Patriots. But what about the rest of us mere mortals who have resolved to become more fit in 2010?

Q. Most New Year’s resolutions have to do with diet and exercise. What do you advise your clients?

A. I suggest that they make extremely realistic resolutions. If they say they’re going to exercise every day, that’s not realistic because they haven’t been exercising every day. Whatever method you choose has to be one that you like, that you can sustain, and that you can see yourself doing forever. If people love carbs, and go on a low-carb diet just until they lose weight, they’re going to go back to the old ways and gain that weight right back.

Q. How long does it take to lose weight?

A. People have to accept the fact that permanent weight loss is typically slower weight loss. When people lose six pounds in a week, that’s often water weight, that’s not body fat. You can only lose two pounds of body fat a week, three if you’re morbidly obese.

Q. Which is more important, exercise or diet?

A. I think it’s 49/51 percent. Both are extremely important. I have clients who go to the gym and get home at 8 or 9 at night. They’re too tired to cook so they get out a box of crackers and cheese or a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. They say, it’s OK, I worked out tonight. I say, but you don’t want to re-feed your fat cells. If you’re exercising to lose weight, you have to be very cognitive of your diet, post-exercise.

Q. What is taboo?

A. You don’t want to come home and have sausage on your pasta, peanut butter all over your toast. You don’t want to come home and eat half a bag of almonds; they’re healthy but still very high in fat. Instead, put tomato sauce on pasta, jam on toast. There are a lot of people who exercise but their diet is very poor. And there’s just the opposite: people who eat very well but don’t exercise properly and don’t lose weight.

Q. Is there a particular weight-loss diet you like?

A. These faddish diets don’t address metabolic, lifestyle, and behavioral issues. They’re just telling you what portions of frozen food to eat, or how many points to eat.

Q. Give me an example of a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A. The minute you skip breakfast, you set the tone for being hungry all day because your body’s metabolism is most active in the first six hours you’re awake. A nice breakfast might be some Greek yogurt with a fistful of high fiber bran cereal and some banana. Or an egg white omelet with mushrooms, peppers, and onions with some toast. For lunch, I love a big turkey sandwich with some honey mustard, lettuce and tomato, maybe with carrots and hummus on the side. Or a lean salad with chicken breast or shrimp or salmon with a nice balsamic vinegar dressing. For dinner, I’m a huge fan of a baked potato or sweet potato, no butter. It’s very filling and there’s portion control. Have that with a piece of skinless chicken or grilled fish or filet of tenderloin and a couple of vegetables.

Q. How much exercise do you recommend?

A. Forty to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise within your target heart-rate range. Aim for seven days, hope for four or five. I do believe in some strength training and muscle conditioning as well.

Q. What is it you love most to eat?

A. I’m a chocoholic. I eat chocolate every single day of my life. I believe 80 percent of what you eat should be really good, really healthy, and then I think the other 20 percent can be whatever you want.

Interview was condensed and edited.