As you may imagine, many patients ask me about weight loss this time of the year. With New Year’s Resolutions in full swing, the diet industry is bombarding us with ads promising major weight loss in just a few weeks. As a result, many of my patients want to get started on the new fad diet program and drop a lot of weight, fast. Unfortunately, most of these programs don’t promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Additionally, most of these programs require drastic lifestyle changes that are difficult to follow. Subsequently, many patients get frustrated at not being able to continue extremely low calorie diets or high-activity exercise programs.
Slow and Steady
To help combat ‘burning out’, I advise my patients to start off slowly, trying to stick to a low carbohydrate, low fat diet. One program I recommend is to watch your diet most of the time, but allow several “good” meals per week. For example, you may limit your carbohydrates and fatty foods for 5 dinners per week, being very careful. Then allow yourself to “splurge” for two dinners per week. The same applies for breakfast or lunch. You may splurge once a week. This helps avoid the frustration of continuously dieting, while still improving your overall nutritional intake. Speaking of breakfast, it is important to eat breakfast every day. It does not need to be a giant meal, it can be something as simple as fruit or cereal.
Avoiding snacks is another key element to weight loss. Occasionally, I have patients keep daily food logs for me to review. Many times they are doing well, but add in “a few” snack chips. It is amazing how just a few chips can add up to a lot of carbohydrates and calories. Try very healthy snacks such as carrots or celery sticks.
Simple Weight Loss Goals
I like to recommend that my patients start off with very simple weight loss goals. Again this helps to avoid frustration and decreases the likeliness of giving up. Your goal can be as little as 1 pound per month. After all, this would result in a yearly weight loss of 12 pounds. As you get more accustomed to watching your diet, you can set higher goals.
Obviously exercise is important for weight loss. Again, it is important to set low goals initially. You can’t just start off on the treadmill for 45 minutes four days a week. To begin with, you may just get on the exercise equipment for 5 minutes once or twice a week. You can then work your way up. I find that patients who start off slowly have better success with weight loss and exercise.
My Patient Who Lost 50 Pounds
For the past year a patient of mine has used this approach. His job requires quite a bit of travel, and it has been difficult for him to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We started off slowly, with a simple diet and exercise plan. Despite starting with modest goals, he was able to very quickly build up to more advanced exercise routines and better eating habits. Even though he eats out a lot, he orders healthy salads, grilled chicken and fish. He cut out all snacks. He exercises moderately, even when traveling. He has now lost over 50 pounds and has been able to continue to lose weight by using a slow, common sense approach.
Keep it Easy
Although it is tempting to try to lose weight and get in shape as fast as possible, my experience has shown that this usually leads to disappointment. The most successful programs I have developed with my patients involve a slow, sensible approach. Instead of trying to follow the newest weight loss fad, I suggest you take a slow and steady approach for a healthier and happier lifestyle.