A lot of people struggle with their weight. The standard measurement used by medical professionals — the Body Mass Index, or BMI — keeps going up and up, and among younger and younger people.
What we use in calories these days just doesn’t equal what we consume on a daily basis. But there can be good news if you will act according to the common sense “law of gravity” that says what goes up must come down.
The key to success is to make sure that you bring your weight down slowly. Trying a very low calorie diet may result in rapid weight loss – for a short time. If you want to win the race, you’ve got to think more like a tortoise than a hare. Speedy weight loss just results in more disappointment.
Beware of claims made by diet plans, pills and other products that promise rapid weight loss, are designed around food quantities and limitations, require specific food combinations and rigid menus, and also promise that no exercise is necessary.
Under rapid weight loss plans, those that are at least healthy aim for a loss of no more than a half-pound to one pound per week. If successful, you will lose weight but a significant part of that will be from muscle, bone and water.
Ditch those diet plans that allow unlimited quantities of any food, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup, and avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups.
There is no evidence that combining certain foods or eating foods at specific times of the day helps you to lose weight. Also beware of specious warnings because eating the wrong combinations of food doesn’t cause them to turn to fat right away nor does it produce toxins. That’s just hype and scare tactics.
Limiting your food choices or following rigid meal plans usually just overwhelms people to the point eating becomes a distasteful chore. Short of developing a psychological disorder such as anorexia nervosa, you can only reject food for so long before your body says “Enough!” and you go on a binge and wind up right back where you started, if not even further back.
The first step to take in following a successful diet plan is to begin some type of exercise. Regular exercise is essential for good health weight management. Plan for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week. Start slow. Start with anything you like. Just start.
Once you get that going, sit down with a pen and paper and identify your problem areas with food so you can target those things you do that lead to more weight gain; like having too many added sugars and solid fats, too much white grain, too large portion sizes, eating out a lot, eating for recreation, etc.
Once you have your list to work from, you can make smart changes, keep track of them, and put a real plan in place that creates the lifestyle changes you will need to make if you are to actually solve your weight problems.
The best way to lose weight is to change you eating habits, but it’s hard to do so just make one change at a time. For example, if you have identified that you eat a lot of sweets and snacks during the average day, then try limiting those to 200 calories per day. If you eat a lot of fried foods, cut those in half. If you go out a lot, try keeping it to one day a week.
You are the one who controls what you eat and how much. People who monitor that behavior (record it and track it over time) have a greater tendency to lose more weight and keep it off. And don’t obsess over your weight. Only step on the scale once a week, at most.
Here are some simple steps to get you started:
• Always enjoy your food, but eat less;
• Make small adjustments to lessen the amount of food on your plate;
• Start building your plate with more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains before adding protein foods and dairy;
• Drink and eat less sodium, saturated fats and added sugars;
• Eat smaller portions;
• Eat at home most of the time.
You can find more information on reliable weight reduction plans at www.eatright.org or through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Jeanne Barnes is a registered dietitian at Harlan ARH Hospital.