March 30, 2009
The weight reduction list goes on and on…Between the Atkins Diet, the high-carbohydrate diet, Weight Watcher, Jenny Craig, South Beach Diet. People swear by the one on which they just had recent success-and then, usually, the weight returns and they are dismayed. In the end, there’s really only one diet that works-eat less and exercise more.
The most important step to take, is to make the commitment to lose weight. Once you do, you must work with your health care professional to develop a diet plan that you can realistically live with and follow-one that is also effective and practical.
For the last 2o years, Americans have been on the low-fat bandwagon. In order to lose weight, we were instructed by the medical establishment-starting with the surgeon general on down- to cut the fat out of our diets. That certainly didn’t work, as obesity and diabetes soon rose to epidemic proportions in the US. The whole concept of “fat is bad” was very short-sighted. It failed to take into account that there are healthy fats that our bodies require for normal function. Moreover, people have to eat something, and so they switched from high-fat foods to low-fat products packed with white flour, sugar and calories…and people continued to gain weight. Calories do matter, and people have seem to lose sight of this.
THE LOW-CARB CRAZE
Low-carb diets, from Atkins to South Beach, at one time assumed center stage. These popular plans allow fats and proteins, while severely limiting carbohydrates- pasta, white rice, white bread and sugar. In controlled studies, low-carb diets don’t fare any better than other diet plans. In the long run, there is no difference in weight loss. The key reason any diet works is that, when followed correctly, you consume fewer calories.
The bottom line is that elements of each of these approaches make sense-or have worked. Yes, it is good to limit your intake of the saturated fats in meat and dairy products, the trans fats in processed and fast foods, and refined carbohydrates in white flour and sugar. All of these contribute to high rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater-there are also plenty of healthy fats (in salmon, tuna, olive oil, sesame seeds, etc.) and healthy carbs (in vegetables and whole grains). The key to any successful weight-loss plan is to eat a variety of whole foods and expend more calories than you take in. But how can you do this? Simple- Eat less and exercise more!
It is very difficult for people to change their diets and lifestyles, so start out by taking small steps. Walk before you run….limit a food before excluding it. Here are some other smart strategies….
Cook for yourself, and incorporate more nutrient-rich whole foods into your diet. Fast foods and processed products are packed with trans fats, empty carbohydrates and calories. Don’t have time? Make double or triple batches when you cook, then freeze them. When it’s mealtime, simply thaw and heat.
Eat more vegetables. Not only are veggies packed with vitamins and minerals that benefit your overall health, they also fill you up so you are not as tempted to reach out for the troublesome foods.
Pay close attention to portion size when you dine out. Most restaurant meals are far larger than necessary. Leave something on your plate, or take a some of it home.
Keep sweets and junk food out of the house. Spare yourself the temptation of eating them by not buying them in the first place.
If you’ve been inactive, keep in mind that even a modest amount of exercise- such as walking for 20 or 30 minutes three or four times a week-is beneficial. As time goes on, you can gradually build up to 45 minutes and then 60 minute walks. At a minimum, take the steps instead of the elevator…park at the far end of the parking lot instead of the first spot. Every extra step is extra calories expended.
Get your family and friends on board. For dinner serve the whole family a meal based on vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of lean protein. Try to buddy up with a friend and take a brisk walk around the park or neighborhood.
Ultimately, losing weight is not a function of fad diets, crash diets or the diet du jour. Sustained weight loss requires a commitment ot a complete lifestlye change. If you start out by taking small steps, you’ll eventually get there-and stay there.