15 Weight Loss Tips for Your New Year's Resolution
Fulfill your new year’s resolution by learning which weight loss tips actually work (and which waste your time).
It’s January again, and that means it’s time to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. What does this mean for us physicians? It means that once again we see an influx of patients requesting help with weight loss. Which is wonderful – there’s nothing better than a motivated patient!
Again and again I hear:
“Isn’t there a medication you can prescribe to help me lose this weight, Doc?”
“I think I just need the surgery, Doc.”
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for losing weight. And any book or product that claims to have one is not being honest with you. Even surgical options, which are far from risk-free, are often temporary solutions that result in weight gain once patients return to their old unhealthy habits. I wish I had a magic trick up my sleeve to help all of my overweight and obese patients – I’d be a wealthy woman while saving so many lives!
So what does work? Besides great dedication and motivation, I have 15 weight loss tips that actually work!
What’s the Problem?
The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled in the U.S. during the last 30 years. Two thirds of all American adults are either overweight or obese. And childhood obesity has become an epidemic. What’s causing all this? First of all, the American lifestyle leaves us workaholic adults little time to devote to nutritious meals. After a long, hard day, it’s much easier to visit your local fast-food chain and take food home than to cook our own meals. Second, portion sizes have increased over the years. And lastly, with the advancement of technology, we spend more and more time playing video games, watching TV, and using the computer. Our sedentary lifestyles keep us and our kids from playing outdoors and getting more physical exercise.
Why does this matter? Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic illnesses. In fact, it’s a close second to cigarette smoking in terms of potential dangers. It is linked to the development of heart disease (the number one killer of both men and women), certain cancers, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure – just to name a few. Weight loss of even 5-10% is sufficient to achieve major health benefits.
15 Quick and Dirty Weight Loss Tips
Find your BMI: The very first step -- you need to first find out if you are overweight and how overweight you really. The most standard method used by doctors is by finding your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a formula using your weight (in kg) divided by your height (in meters squared). It categorizes you into three groups: overweight, obese, or extremely obese depending on your BMI number. Here’s a website that gives you your BMI quickly: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
Review Your Meds: Make sure you’re not taking any medications that can contribute to weight gain, such as some antipsychotics, lithium, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids.
Do Your Homework: Before you develop a plan to lose the weight, you first need to figure out your baseline nutrition and physical activity levels. How do you know where to go if you don’t you’re your starting point? Although time consuming, you really need to keep a food and physical activity diary, and log everything you eat and drink, amount of calories you consume, along with the amount and type of physical activity you received each day. This will not only help you keep track, but will help you find your pattern of obstacles. Also, you may want to take this self-assessment survey to find out what you may be doing wrong: http://med.brown.edu/nutrition/acrobat/REAP%206.pdf
Set Your Goals: Now that you know how much you are eating, set a goal to cut out 250 to 500 calories a day. Initially, set a goal to lose 1-2 lbs a week for the first 6 months in order to reach a 10% weight loss goal. Losing it slowly (but steadily) means less risk of regaining later – that’s where fad diets typically go wrong.
Keep A Routine Schedule: Set a routine meal schedule with 3 meals a day. Make sure you don’t skip breakfast. Research shows that those who skip breakfast eat more throughout the day and have more difficulty with their weight.
Watch Your Portions: It’s not only what you eat, but how much of it. Make sure your portions are appropriate. Split your plate in half (not literally, but mentally). The left entire half should consist of veggies. Then split the right side in half once again. One fourth of your plate should consist of carbohydrates, and the other fourth of protein. Check out this diagram you can actually print out and place on your fridge to remind you of the proper adult portions you need with every meal: http://www.webmd.com/diet/printable/portion-control-size-guide.
Select Your Liquids Carefully: For many patients, what they drink is a great source of calories. Sometimes, simply cutting out the beverage culprits is enough to result in weight loss in many of my patients, both kids and adults. Cut out drinks with any sugar or carbohydrates. This includes Gatorade, coffee drinks, regular soda, and juice (even if it’s “natural”). Eliminate alcohol, as they often are high in unnecessary calories, or limit them to no more than one glass of wine a day for women and max of 2 for men. Instead, drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
Bulk Up With Fiber: Fiber helps keep us full, keep our bowels regulated, and are a good source of nutrients. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Eat In, Not Out: Avoid eating out as much as possible. If you do end up eating out, select healthier meal options. Watch the salad dressings, which are often high in calories, carbs, and/or fats (even if they are labeled “low fat” they can still be high in carbs).
No Pain, No Gain: There’s really no way around it – we all need to find the time and motivation to incorporate physical activity into our routine schedule. The trick is to find something you like to do – a dance class, brisk walks in the park (always keep one ear “open” please), swimming, or investing in a stationary bike or treadmill (can be bought used). Set a goal of at least 30 minutes to one hour of physical activity a day, with moderate to vigorous intensity (no, a walk around the mall does not count).
Avoid Sedentary Activities: TV, video games, computer use should be no more than 2 hours total a day total (NOT each). Keep a pedometer on each day and shoot for a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car at the furthest spot in the parking lot.
Catch Your Z’s: Maintain a routine sleep schedule: For unknown reasons, those who sleep too little or too much have been shown to have more issues with their weight.
Avoid Gimmicks: Avoid gimmicks and over-the-counter weight loss supplements, as evidence behind their claims and their potential side effects are weak. And their side effects and long term effects are not well-established. The FDA currently discourages use of these supplements. Again, remember that if something is too good to be true, it often is.
Avoid weight loss prescriptions: Studies show that weight loss medications may help some patients lose an average of 11 pounds a year. However, they are short-term solutions. Patients often gain the weight back once the drug is stopped. In addition, some of them have significant side effect profiles that really are not worth the risk.
Seek Your Doctor: Your doctor is your gateway to many weight loss resources. Ask for a referral to see a nutritionist. Also, many health plans offer free weight loss classes, programs, and even discount to weight loss centers and exercise gyms.
Don’t let the new year be the only time you consider weight loss. It should be a work in process, over a long duration of time. Just like smoking cessation, it often takes several attempts to be successful, and there will likely be challenges on the way. You will have good and bad days. But it’s important to keep yourself motivated along the way and not give up.