Question: “I have been a yo-yo dieter for many years — losing weight, gaining it back, then switching to another diet and repeating the process! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to lose 15 pounds over the next year and maintain the weight loss. Can you provide helpful tips that will finally enable me to achieve my goal?”
There is a great deal of information and misinformation available through the internet, infomercials and even many of the popular diet books with respect to weight loss. It is often difficult to differentiate between what is true and what is false. The following weight management tips provide factual, science-based information that will help you achieve your weight loss goals in 2020.
1. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Social, cultural and emotional issues aside, losing excess body weight (fat) is basically a matter of energy imbalance. If you are carrying too much fat, it is because, over time, you’ve taken in more energy (calories) than were required to meet daily needs. The excess is deposited as fat. One pound of body fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories of stored energy. The only proven way to lose the extra weight is to reverse the process — take in fewer calories than required. This is best achieved through minor modifications in eating and activity habits that can be sustained over time.
2. Calories count. Slick marketing has fostered an erroneous belief that all you need to do to lose weight is to eat fat-free food. While consuming too much fat is a legitimate cause of weight gain, the mix of calories (fat, carbohydrate, protein) is of less consequence than the total number of calories you consume. Fat-free foods do not equate to calorie-free foods. Read labels carefully for calorie count, fat content, and serving size.
3. You can’t lose 30 pounds (of fat) in 30 days. When a diet or exercise plan sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If even one of these “miracle” weight loss gimmicks worked then millions of people would use it, stick with it, and overcome their lifelong struggle with too much body fat. That hasn’t happened! Weight gain is generally a slow and steady process. Weight loss should follow the same pattern.
4. You don’t have to lose huge amounts of weight to reap positive health benefits. A loss of as little as 5 percent of body weight can improve heart function and reduce the risk of sleep apnea in greatly overweight individuals. A 10 percent weight loss can significantly improve a person’s blood profile. It’s not just about losing weight — it’s also about improving health.
5. Not all body fat is bad. Your body requires a minimum level of fat to function normally. Essential fat comprises parts of our spinal cord, brain, nerves and cell membranes. It also serves as a cushion for internal organs and provides a layer of insulation against the cold. Being too thin is not healthy.
6. Restrictive diets simply don’t work over the long haul. Dieting has become a way of life for millions of people. Most lose weight initially but more than 95 percent gain it back. In most cases, failure to keep the weight off has little to do with a lack of effort or willpower. Who can or wants to stay on a highly restricted eating plan for a lifetime? Rather than eliminate any specific foods, it’s better to adopt a healthy eating and activity plan that you can live with.
7. Lift weights and lose weight. Physical activity must be an integral part of a successful weight loss plan. Most people connect aerobic exercise (walking, biking, running, etc.) with weight loss, but you can also condition your body to burn more calories by adding lean muscle. A regular program of resistance-training can do this for you. Adding an extra pound or two of muscle to your frame will require extra calories just to maintain that muscle, increasing your resting metabolic rate. This causes you to burn additional calories 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day. That extra energy burn, although relatively small, can be the difference between gaining several pounds of fat over the course of a year or maintaining normal weight.
8. Weight loss does not always equal fat loss. The composition of weight lost depends in part upon the methods used to create the energy imbalance. Diets that require drastic calorie reduction typically result in a substantial loss of fat as well as muscle tissue. In contrast, weight loss resulting from moderate amounts of energy-burning physical activity coupled with moderate calorie reduction results in a much greater proportion of fat loss. In short, your goal should be to lose fat, not muscle.
9. Practice “functional fitness.” Functional fitness is physical activity that has a purpose beyond the exercise itself. For example, mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges burn extra calories and keep your yard looking good. Walking the stairs burns more calories than taking the elevator and you still arrive at the same location. When possible, substitute “body” work for “machine” work. Consider that burning just 50 extra calories per day through functional fitness can result in a fat loss of 5 pounds in a year.
10. Slow and steady wins the race. Attempting to lose too much weight in a short period of time is not recommended. The human body often responds to rapid weight loss by decreasing metabolic rate which makes it even harder to lose the excess weight. The National Institutes of Health recommends a safe rate for weight loss of .5 to 1 pound per week for slightly overweight people and 1 – 2 pounds per week for extremely overweight individuals.
Keep these tips in mind and you can achieve your goal. Best of luck!