Positive Attitude Key to Weight Loss Success (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
I think I need professional help to shed the 50 pounds I want to (need to) lose. Who is best suited to help me? My doctor? A dietitian? One of those weight loss centers like LA weight loss or Weight Watchers?

FLETCHER:
In my book, Thin for Life , I offer guidelines for determining whether you're more of a group person or a person who would benefit from more of a solo approach to weight loss. I found about half of the masters had professional help and about half did it on their own. I guess I would start by getting your doctor's blessing that it's OK for you to proceed with weight loss, and make sure you don't have any medical problems that are responsible for your weight gain.

In my book I review the basics of the reputable weight loss programs used by the masters, including Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Health Management Resources, and Optifast. All good, sound programs, but with very different philosophies and approaches. I would encourage you to read about them, check them out on the Internet, and see which would be the right fit for you.

You also might want to consider seeing a registered dietician who specializes in weight management for a more individualized approach.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Among the people you interviewed, how many were men and how many were women, and what differences did you see in their approaches, success, amount of weight lost, etc.?

FLETCHER:
Seventy-five percent of the masters were women and 25% were men. I did not look at differences in what the men did to be successful versus the experiences of the women. The masters come from all walks of life -- everybody from a chocolate scientist to state senator, secretaries, schoolteachers... The important thing to know is that there are success stories out there, because we hear that over and over that 95% of people gain their weight back. In fact, there are many men and women that have succeeded. I feel it's more important to pay attention to them and what they do to be successful.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Help! I'm addicted to carbs. I love chips and pasta and bread. I'd rather not bother eating than to eat a meal without a carb-loaded side dish. Am I doomed to never lose weight, or is the low-carb craze overrated?

FLETCHER:
Great question. A review just was published on all the studies on low-carb diets to date, and the research shows that while a low-carb diet seems to help some people stay with the dieting process a bit longer than a more conventional low-calorie approach, in the long run so far it appears there's not an advantage to following a low-carb diet. In other words, it does not look like a low-carb diet is any more beneficial than a low-calorie diet in keeping the weight off in the long term.

In fact, I found that most of the masters of weight control do not deprive themselves of their favorite foods. Many people find that when you do that it's unrealistic, they can't stick with it, and when they finally break their rules about not eating carbs they go completely overboard.

A huge study called the National Weight Control Registry is following about 5,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off. They found, and I found, that successful maintainers eat diets that are relatively high in carbohydrate and low in fat. So it would appear that most people who maintain weight loss are not eating the low-carb way.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why do you think the Atkins diet is so successful? Is it just because people can eat lots of meat? Or is there more to it? It looks a bit dangerous to me, but maybe that's just me.


"The healthiest societies on this earth tend to eat diets relatively high in carbohydrate and rich in fruits and vegetables."

FLETCHER:
It depends on what you mean by successful. I think that people are attracted in our society to anything that offers a quick return. And people often experience quick initial weight loss on a low-carb diet because the food choices are limited, and because part of what you lose on a low-carb diet initially is a lot of body water (when you go back to eating normally again that water weight is regained). So there's the attraction of quick initial weight loss, but the big questions remain: Are you going to keep the weight off? Is this a food plan you can live with for life?

You also raise the question of whether this is a healthy way to live. The healthiest societies on this earth tend to eat diets that are relatively high in carbohydrate and rich in fruits and vegetables; they're not diets that are high in steak, butter, bacon, and pork rinds.

Some people find, too, that they are less hungry on high protein, low-carb diets, and they also find it easier to stick with them because the choices are very limited.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How do I stay motivated?

FLETCHER:
That is the key question I asked the masters for my second book, Eating Thin for Life . I sent each of them a five-page questionnaire about their eating habits and discovered that they're doing the things most people know they should do to be able to lose weight and keep it off. In other words, they're eating a low-fat diet; they're eating lots of fruits and vegetables and watching their portions.

The real question for me was "How do you get yourself to do this; how do you stay motivated to do this for the rest of your life?" When I asked the masters this question, they told me they stay motivated by keeping a vivid picture in their minds of how unhappy they were when they were heavier, and they contrast that with thoughts and comments about how wonderful their lives are now.

So what if you're not there yet? I encourage people to keep a diary from the day they start losing weight of all the positive changes that are occurring in their lives en route to their goal. These changes should be changes that you're noting in mind, body, and spirit. For instance, are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Even though you're not where you want to be, are your clothes feeling looser, is your blood pressure going down, are you feeling less crabby? Any time you feel discouraged, pull the diary out because this will help you to stay motivated along the way.