Weight Control Strategies
We Americans are obsessed with finding a cure for our number one nutrition problem-overweight. Billions are spent seeking a guaranteed, simple, painless solution for a problem that occurs in no less than thirty percent of the population over forty years of age. Medical experts tell us that losing excess body fat, especially that fat that localizes in the abdominal cavity rendering us high risk “apples”, will not only lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, bone and joint pain, but also raise HDL, energy levels, and self-esteem. At the same time, however, they warn that crash dieting or radical changes in weight may shorten our lives, decrease basal metabolic rate and lean body mass; and also make us sick with nausea, anemia, ketosis, constipation, dizziness, irregular heart beat, headaches, lethargy and general irritability.Weight control will only be achieved when the pursuit of a miracle cure is replaced by permanent lifestyle changes. So long as caloric intake exceeds or equals caloric output, weight will not be lost. Many people exercise too little rather than eat too much. Caloric intake is continuous and cumulative. The calories saved by skipping meals or eating less on weekdays can be more than made up by generous meals or “earned” weekends. Applying the same theory from another perspective, the calories burned by walking one mile per day (100 calories per mile) will equal about ten pounds of fat (3500 calories per pound of fat) per year. Decreasing dietary fat remains the most effective strategy.
There is no food or combination of foods that burns or melts fat. Fat has more than double the calories per unit (9 calories per gram) compared to carbohydrates and protein (4 calories per gram). Alcohol contributes 7 calories per gram. Further, because of metabolic adaptations, even extremely low calorie, but high fat diets result in less weight lost than diets containing less fat at equal or higher caloric levels. Finally, excess calories from any nutrient source (particularly protein) can be ultimately converted into fat and stored as excess body weight. There is no easy solution to the challenge of controlling what and/or how much we eat. A successful plan for weight control includes: 1) Identification of the cause of the problem: excess eating or inadequate exercise or both? 2) Realistic goals: 1-2 pounds weight loss per week through reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity 3) Balanced nutrition: 30 percent of calories from fat, about 55 percent from carbohydrate and 15 percent protein. 4) Evaluation of progress including assessment of behaviors, not just “the scale”. Consider the following “Tactics for Managing Eating Behavior: below carefully. Challenge yourself with a few that are the root of your problem. Good luck!
Eating Out in Restaurants:
• Choose a restaurant where you can make healthy food choices.
• Ask the waitress not to put bread and butter on the table.
• Request no butter, no sauce on vegetables or entrée.
• Choose a broiled entrée.
• Request water with your meal.
• Request salad dressing on the side, or bring your own.
• Don’t look at the list or dessert tray.
Eating Out at the Home of Friends:
• Call the host or hostess in advance about the menu.
• Make a special request for broiled, baked, or poached entrée, plain!
• Take your own diet drinks or food.
• Eat a little, but leave the rest.
Coping with Others:
• Tell family and friends what you need them to do to support you.
• Ask co-workers not to offer you food.
• Instead of eating to be polite, thank the person offering food and decline firmly.
• Don’t apologize or say you are on a diet; just say “No thank you, I’ve had enough. It was delicious and I’m full”.
Coping with Emotions:
• Avoid the person or situation that upsets you.
• Meditate or use a relaxation technique.
• Go for a walk or otherwise exercise to unwind.
• Be more forgiving and accepting of others even though they upset you.
• Don’t take it all so seriously.
Managing Your Body:
• Avoid too much caffeine.
• Avoid too much alcohol.
• Seek a substitute for medications that adversely affect you.
• Get regular exercise.
• Get adequate rest.
• Eat three regular meals a day and use planned snacks.
• Eat more vegetables and grains and less processed foods.
Author: James E. Heimdal, Ph.D, Chair, Exercise Science Department, University of Maryland Eastern Shore