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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Permanent Weight Loss Success Tips

Realistic Expectations
Forget about quick weight loss schemes, slow, steady weight loss that focuses on systematic behavior changes, promises the best long-term success. Often times, “fad diets” or quick weight loss schemes are based on severe calorie restriction. Fad diets may help you to lose weight quickly, however, the pounds lost may actually be due to loss of fluids/water and muscle…not a long-term solution for permanent weight loss. Unfortunately, weight lost during most fad diets creeps back and may contribute to additional weight gain. Focusing on your current situation and working to identify the reasons why you have gained weight, can offer valuable insight in starting a healthy weight loss program.

The following tips are provided to help you discover long-term solutions to healthy eating and permanent weight loss.

Tune Into Physical Hunger
Listen to your body. Rate your hunger level before you eat, using a scale from -5 (starved) 0 (not hungry or full) +5 (Thanksgiving stuffed). Are there other things influencing your desire to eat, aside from hunger? Consider moods, physical location (passing the coffee shop), and level of stress. If you have difficulty assessing your physical hunger, it may take some practice so don’t give up too easily.

Keep a Food Journal
Tracking why you eat is just as important as what you eat. Consider hunger, moods, location, time, type of food, and quantity. If you think you’re eating too much, ask for a referral to the Registered Dietitian (R.D.) on campus to help you to assess your diet and establish nutrition recommendations.

Eat Enough Energy
Stop starving yourself and don’t deprive yourself! If you’re not getting enough energy your body will try to adjust to maintain on less, slowing your metabolism. When you cut calories too low, you’re losing water and muscle, not fat. An estimated minimum of 10 calories per pound, plus 10% of that number, also known as the thermic effect of food, is required to maintain basal energy needs. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) also called Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of energy (calories) needed to sustain essential life functions (breathing, heart rate, etc.) This does not include energy for activities of daily living or exercise.

Avoid Deprivation!
Depriving yourself can lead to excessive intake of other foods to try and satisfy cravings. Go for whatever it is you desire and savor it in a single portion. If you find yourself craving certain foods that are side-tracking your weight loss efforts, this may be a cue that you have placed foods in good vs. bad categories. All foods can fit into a healthy diet in moderation. This approach to food can help you relax more about food, prevent binges, and help you to stay focused. Keep track of food cravings and explore why the urge to eat a particular food is so strong. Perhaps there is something else that you can do aside from eating to manage the roots of your food cravings.

Monitor Fat Intake
All fats have the same number of calories (9 calories/gram), which gram for gram compared to carbohydrates or protein (4 calories/gram), has twice as many calories per gram. Reducing fat in the diet can help to reduce total calories consumed. Everyone needs some fat in their diet to support the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and to provide essential fatty acids. Also, fat in the diet helps you to feel more satisfied after eating which can help you to eat less. Select heart-healthy fats, derived from plants and fish, like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, soy beans, and salmon. Limit saturated and trans fat, like animal fat and partially hydrogenated oils.

Balance Meals
Combine carbohydrates, protein and fat in meals to obtain the optimal balance of nutrients to fuel you throughout the day. Aim for at least 3 food groups at each meal or snack. For example, at breakfast, a bowl of whole grain cereal (oatmeal), with skim or soy milk, sprinkled with a few nuts and a piece of fruit.

Eat on Time
Plan for regularly scheduled meals throughout the day. Our bodies (and brains!) need fuel to function optimally, every three to five hours, depending on the nutritional balance of the foods consumed. Avoid becoming overly hungry as this sets the stage to overeat at the next meal.

Slow Down the Pace of Eating
It takes some time for our brain to catch up with how much is in our stomachs. This was a biological advantage at one time when food was scarce. Now, food is readily available and messages to eat are everywhere. Eat at regular times to avoid being ravenously hungry. Manage the pace of eating to last at least 20 minutes before going back for second-helpings. Then, if you’re still hungry, have some more.

Beware of Portion Distortion
Most foods served today are larger than what is recommended by the Food Guide Pyramid’s standardized serving sizes. Quantity is often confused with quality, and value-marketing (more for your money) is a popular trend. Beware, although you may only pay pennies more for a super-sized meal, you may be paying with extra inches around your waistline as the proportion of calories and fat can be double or triple for just a fraction more of the original price.

Enjoy More Fruits & Veggies
The average American consumes less than the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are a wonderful source of fiber, fluid and phytonutrients (beneficial plant chemicals). These help to keep us feeling full, maintain a healthy digestive tract, prevent chronic diseases and keep us well-hydrated and alert.

Choose Beverages Carefully
Alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages, including juice, and Powerade
, can contribute unnecessary extra-calories. Consider whetting your whistle with fruit-flavored water (no sugar) or seltzer. Maintaining optimal hydration can help to keep you awake in class – blood carries oxygen and when you’re well hydrated it can get to your brain (and other body parts) more rapidly.

Manage Stress
For some, stress can increase food intake. Finding comfort in food may provide temporary relief but it is not a long-term solution for the blues. Chronic stress increases the risk for the perfect “biochemical storm” in the body, increasing the possibility of weight gain. Chronic exposure to stress hormones eventually breaks down the body’s healthy defenses. In an effort to conserve energy, we may store more energy (food) as fat (efficient, long-term energy reserves). Consider alternative methods to manage stress (vs. nervous nibbling) such as talking to someone, exercising regularly, or meditation or yoga (or a combination).

Be Alert to Dysfunctional Eating
Normal eating includes (“legalizes”) all foods and is regulated primarily by internal hunger cues. Normal eating promotes clear thinking, concentration, mood stability, and healthy body weight and size. Dysfunctional or disordered eating patterns are irregular (fasting, binging, dieting, skipping meals). Instead of feeling better after eating, the person likely feels worse. Talk to someone if you are concerned about your eating behavior.

Focus on Behavior Rather than Weight
To maintain a positive outlook while trying to lose weight, focus on making systematic behavior changes, such as aiming to increase fruit and vegetable or calcium intake. Often times, stepping on the scale is a double-edged sword. If you haven’t reached your target, or if you have, it can lead to over-eating due to discouragement, or through celebratory eating. Establish realistic, flexible, time-limited behavior goals. For example: “This week, I’m going to consume at least one vegetable at lunch and dinner for at least 3-4 days.” Identify potential obstacles and brainstorm ideas to overcome (plan in advance). Set a non-food reward in advance for achieving your goal.

Dump Diets Forever
Fad diets may cause weight loss because they cut calories, however, most quick weight loss schemes are not sustainable or healthy. Restrictive dieting typically leads to overeating as hunger and/or deprivation becomes too much to handle. Focusing on realistic goals, including all foods in moderation, will lead to life-long healthy eating and weight management.

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Have a great day and God bless!

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