Diet and Women (cont.)

Ms. W. J. is trying to walk daily, so she's already tackled that problem. She should be encouraged. However, this means that although she's working hard to reduce her weight, there is still something wrong with her diet. A proper diet for weight loss is complicated. If it were easy to lose weight, Ms. W. J. would have already lost the weight. However, she has not. Many, many women have had this experience.

It is important to note that a person will not lose weight until the proper balance of each type of food is attained. It can be very difficult to figure out this proper balance without consulting a qualified dietician. This is why people have so much trouble keeping weight off after going through a group weight-loss program. People often need individualized counseling by a good dietician. If the problem were easy to solve, Ms. W. J. would have been successful on her own. For example, a dietician often determines that people are not eating sufficient protein and need to change the proportion of protein in their diet to lose weight. This is not something that people can easily figure out on their own. The dietician is not going to focus on brownies being fattening or on decreasing the total number of calories every day (which most women already know). Rather, he or she will concentrate on more subtle issues, such as the exact balance of each component of the diet. The dietician will also individualize a plan so that Ms. W. J. can eat the foods she actually likes and that fit her busy work schedule.

Ms. W. J. is ready to comply with the dietician's instructions because she realizes there must be something in her diet that is blocking her from being successful. However, she now asks: "What should be my goal weight?" Actually, this is a difficult question to answer.

Unless weight loss is due to a medical or psychiatric illness (such as anorexia nervosa), being too thin rarely presents a problem. In other words, weight-related complications keep decreasing as people weigh less and less.

The fewest health complications probably occur at a body mass index of about 24. To determine what your body mass index is, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters (see's Obesity article). However, it is a common mistake to set an unreasonable goal for weight loss.

A reasonable goal should focus on being healthier and not on a specific number. When people consult a dietician and start changing their diet accordingly, and also start exercising, they are already on the way to being much more healthy, no matter what their actual weight number is. The weight will fall into place on its own given a little time. When women are surveyed, they almost always have a weight goal in mind that is almost impossible to attain. They also expect the weight loss to occur quickly. What they may not know is that weight loss of ½ to 1 pound per week is the weight that stays off over the long-term. Thus, in order to achieve long-term success, the weight loss needs to be gradual and based on improving habits.

Here are some tips for Ms. W. J. before she sees her dietician:

Remove serving dishes from the table. Also, after she serves herself, immediately put back half the food into the serving dish. Both of these changes force her to verify that she is still truly hungry before taking another serving.

Before a woman consults the dietician, she should write down anything that is keeping her from losing weight. People find this process unpleasant because it means taking a hard look at their habits. It means asking, Do you "stress" eat? Do you go without eating all day and then overeat at dinner? Do you eat just out of boredom? Is eating a "comfort" measure when your mood is down? Do you have trouble resisting snacks that coworkers bring into the office? Any habit that you determine has prevented you from keeping weight off in the past needs to be reported to the dietician.

Ms. W. J. should know that she will probably need to visit the dietician more than once. As is the case with seeing a doctor, you generally don't go to a dietician just once. If your treatment wasn't successful seeing a doctor once, you would need to go back. The same goes for a dietician. The diet plan may require adjustments over time as the dietician and patient determine what works and what doesn't work.

Finally, it is important to understand that there is still no quick fix for losing weight. There is only hard work, usually over an extended period of time.

Last Editorial Review: 4/23/2008