In this blog our expert dietitian helps us understand how to lose weight the healthy way.
The principle of weight gain is simple: energy intake exceeds energy expenditure. In other words, calories in over calories out. However, weight gain is the result of a complex set of interactions among genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
One of the major contributors to weight gain - as many of us might know from experience - is stress, and another is boredom. Accordingly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the current pandemic and the resulting quarantine period we all went through, served as the perfect storm for unhealthy weight gain and obesity rates to skyrocket.
The immense amounts of stress accompanying the fact that - we are all going through an unprecedented global crisis of epic proportions, that ourselves and those we love might be in danger of falling prey to a potentially deadly disease, that we might lose our jobs and livelihoods and so much else has led many of us to a cycle of emotional eating. This has quite negative consequences for both our mental health and our waistlines. To make this far worse, we have all been stuck at home for months, constantly surrounded by a virtually infinite supply of our favorite snacks and once-in-a-while treats, with nothing much else to do but eat.
While we are constantly bombarded with hundreds of weight-loss strategies, diets, potions, and devices, the complex and often opaque process of weight gain challenges practitioners, researchers, and the overweight themselves to identify permanent, effective strategies for weight loss and maintenance. Despite these countless popular diets, rates of American adults with obesity has continued to increase over the past decade according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moreover, the percentage of individuals who lose weight and successfully maintain that loss has been estimated to be as small as 1 to 3 percent (Andersen et al., 1988; Wadden et al., 1989).
Clearly then, losing weight and keeping it off is just not as easy and/or straightforward as multi-level marketing schemes and the multi million dollar weight loss industry try to make it seem. As opposed to what the weight loss industry wants us to think, there is no one-stop shop to long term, sustained weight loss. Myriad companies are using multi-level-marketing schemes to sell products or packages for quick weight loss strategies. It is important to note that these are purely anecdotal in efficacy and have little or no clinically proven basis.
The most important thing we must understand in order to successfully lose weight and keep it off is that there are no ‘quick fixes’ or magic bullet solutions for weight loss. In order to get it right this time, we must change our mindset on what constitutes a wholesome and sustainable weight loss regime.
The vast majority of those who want to lose weight find themselves in this position for one of two reasons: either for health reasons as often advised by their Doctors or for cosmetic reasons--that is, to look skinnier. The latter group are by far the ones that most often and most easily fall prey to the false doctrines and ‘foolproof plans’ of self-proclaimed health professionals touting the aforementioned quick fix weight loss strategies. This is to say, a mindset conducive to successful, healthy and long term weight loss is not one with an exclusive focus on just getting thin and looking pretty. Rather, it is a lifelong commitment to a major lifestyle change.
Moreover, healthy weight loss must be approached through a lens of evidence-based, scientifically proven facts, not arbitrarily restrictive diets and ‘magic’ pills/powders/potions. On the bigger scale, we need to strengthen health care systems, equip more healthcare providers to treat obesity, and address all of obesity’s root causes.
We know all this might seem overwhelming at first, so, for now, here are some things you can do that evidence-based research has proven will help you manage your weight in the most effective and efficient manner. The findings of several studies point to a few key strategies for successful weight loss management after examining the results of large and commercial weight management programs. Some of these findings include:
- keeping low‐calorie foods accessible
- setting daily intake goals
- recording daily caloric intake and/or measuring foods
- identifying a strong, consistent source of motivation to succeed in weight management
- and remaining positive in the face of weight regain
Individuals who frequently practiced these dietary, behavioral, and psychological coping strategies were shown to exhibit far greater success in long-term weight loss management.
Remember: the battle is won in your mind first!
Ask these questions first -
1. Why am I choosing this diet?
2. Am I going to turn it into a lifestyle? How?
3. Is it a healthy and realistic lifestyle for me?
4. Why do I want to lose weight?
5. What will keep me motivated when life throws obstacles in the way?
Answering these questions for yourself should help you identify the healthy habits, dietary practices, and motivating factors that set you on a weight loss journey most realistic and sustainable for your individual preferences and lifestyle. Once you have this down, it’s okay to start slowly -- ‘baby steps’ are better than no steps at all or, even worse, moving backwards!
- Start by consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and consuming less frequent and smaller portions of high calorie, highly processed items.
- Practice portion control and make sure every time you eat you are mindful and present with yourself -- eat when hungry, stop when full.
- If it’s feasible and enjoyable for you, try and exercise a few times per week (walking is the easiest and cheapest).
- The most important thing is to find something you can stick with… something that works with your food preferences, cultural traditions, medical needs and lifestyle.
At the end of the day, a successful long term weight loss program should not feel restrictive- it’s all about making healthy choices that contribute to a healthy, happy, abundant life!
About the contributor : -- Kumkum Kumar, RDN, MNT. is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience of over 30 yrs in the fields of clinical dietetics in various capacities , worked at the teaching hospital at John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Detroit, MI . She is the recipient of the Certificate of training in “Adult Obesity and Weight Management“ from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Blog Editor : Natasha Vasan is a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Disclaimer - This blog is for informational purposes only. For any specific treatment questions please contact your Healthcare Provider.