Are you or someone you know currently on a “diet?” Obesity is the cause of 300,000 deaths each year, the cause being multi-factorial: genetic, behavioral and environmental. Long-term maintenance or weight loss is often not achieved. Why? Because behaviors and environment can be very difficult to change – and these are the very things over which we DO have control!
Some of the most common struggles I hear are: “I was taught from a young age to clear everything off my plate whenever I eat, so I don’t know what a portion even feels or looks like,” “I eat all the healthy foods they say you should eat in order to lose weight, but I am still overweight,” and “I don’t even eat that much, but I am overweight.”
Do these sound familiar? And the list of struggles goes on:
“Everyone in my office/home eats fast and processed foods and brings snacks to the office,” “My kids won’t want to eat what I eat if I diet,” “I have other people to shop for–I cannot afford to eat healthy,” “I cannot eat at my desk,” and “I don’t have time to eat healthy.”
And so people seek out magic pills and fad diets, rather than the skills that are needed to make a long-term lifestyle change. And what happens with a quick fix? 95% of weight lost is regained within five years.
So what’s the answer? Take control of what you can control in order to seek balance! Being a body building competitor for eight years I have to admit I did not know “balance!” It was an extreme way of living for a short amount of time. I lost and regained the same 30-40 pounds, 2-3 times a year. My closet was stuffed full of clothes ranging in sizes from 2 to 12. I now understand the struggle and do anything in my power to help people avoid that cycle of loss and regain!
In order to make adjustments and balance your weight management, first you must identify where your lifestyle is off balance! For example, look at food choices, sleep, exercise and water intake. More times than not, there are multiple factors contributing to an imbalance.
Patients describe getting to his or her personal balance by changing simple behaviors like packing their lunch every day, engaging in daily physical activity, cutting pop out of their diets or eating vegetables.
Successful patients who have discovered their personal health balances have told me, “I understand the food groups and putting together a balanced meal of lean protein, fruit and vegetables. I limit my grains and eat more fruit instead,” “I have learned that I eat better when I work out, it keeps me focused on making smart food choices. The combination has made me successful at keeping my weight off,” and “I didn’t realize you could flavor foods with spices, fat free and low calorie condiments. I would eat potatoes but they were loaded with bad condiments to make it taste good.”
Reflecting on past unbalanced decisions, patients explain to me how they now feel more in control, “I wouldn’t portion at all. I never knew what one cup actually looked like until I bought the cups to see what I was putting in my body and actually measured it out,” “I never read a full food label; there are so many other factors to look at, not just the calories. I had to learn to read the fine print and learn about the overall nutritional value and take that into consideration when making food choices,” and “I used to eat a chicken breast with mashed potatoes and mac and cheese all in one meal, and I thought it was healthy because I had chicken.”
Having the knowledge about how to balance decisions for a healthy lifestyle makes all the difference, just like with the patient examples from above. So remember balance when trying to maintain a long-term lifestyle change. Some of my guidelines for success include:
- Eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet
- Eat breakfast everyday
- Monitor progress
- Get high levels of physical activity, about an hour a day
- Eat five times per day
- Burn an average of 2,800 calories per week, or 400 calories per day
Remember, the key to weight management is to establish eating and activity patterns that can be sustained.