Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Losing Weight is not for Sissies

People have been asking me lately, at work, at the gym, over the phone, do I have any suggestions? They generally start by saying they're trying to "eat healthier" or "lose my belly", and then mention some friend who trying some"new" diet they saw on TV. (Don't even get me started about the baby-food diet.) I feel like saying to every one "go talk to a dietitian!" but losing weight is perceived as some kind of semi-secret recipe that anyone can follow if they have the "will power".

In fact, losing weight and keeping it off is a fairly complicated process, because your body will resist you. Eating healthy isn't complicated but it takes a bit of education, some planning and getting used to. From what I've been reading lately, all compasses point to an annoying fact: your body will try to settle at a weight that you accidentally climbed to in the last 5 or 10 years.

First of all, recent liposuction studies indicate that your fat cells kind of stick around, and even if lipo doesn't cause you to gain fat elsewhere (some researchers say it does), a 2008 study found the number of fat cells after adolescence remain constant, and those cells can get larger or smaller. Freaky, huh? But don't despair, you are not doomed to fail at reasonable goals, not at all.

Secondly, you live in a society where the dairy and sugar industries are revered for their contributions to the economy. Corn farming is heavily subsidized (think, corn syrup and nachos). We are raised to celebrate everything from a baby shower to a birthday to a business dinner with a high-calorie low-nutrient meal, or cake. So it's kind of like, if you want to eat in healthful ways you have to swim a little harder to resist the undertow.

I know, happens to me all the time. Yesterday, I took my 5th grade buddy to dinner and he asked for a salad with his kid's meal burger. The chef "forgot" and gave him french fries. The nice server brought out a salad after that. She said the kids almost always order fries. Well, this kid wanted a salad. This is the atmosphere we live and diet in.

So you want suggestions? Um, I'll try.

1. Be more physical, like those folks on the reality shows. The losing weight ones. That could mean mowing the lawn with a power push-mower, riding a bike, going more often to the gym, or actually pushing PLAY on the P90x DVD before opening your chem textbook.

2. Don't eliminate healthy food from your diet like eggs, avocado, or whole milk yogurt. Believe me, that caramel macchiatto you had did a lot more damage than the whole milk in the yogurt.

3. Ask your teen to stash the chips and cookies in their room away from you.

4. Try having 6-8 oz. of milk or a handful of nuts (almonds or peanuts, if you're not allergic) about 20 minutes before dinner. This will help curb your appetite.

5. Don't assume that a food labeled "low fat" is a low calorie food. Sugars have lots of calories, too. Whole unprocessed food generally has fewer calories, and the higher-cal unprocessed food 'burns' slower, keeping you full longer. So, the more you stay away from boxed, prepared foods the easier it is to eat fewer calories, especially the "empty" kind.

And here's my bonus hint: when cutting back, never eat without putting the items on a plate. Why? Because you're not going to count it as food if it's not on a plate. Are you?

I guess you can see, I'm all about you getting the help you need to change your diet and not giving up if you slip back to your old habits. Whole food... whole food! And help from doctors and restaurant menus. Nutrition and weight are not rocket science but there's a lot of good science in it, and a lot still to be revealed. If there is a secret to dieting, it's to change what you did that didn't work. And the hard part is finding a new plan that does work. The genies are working on it, I promise.

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