Weight Management

Weight Control That Works

Use these strategies for long-term success

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Introduction

There are lots of ways to lose weight. The question is, how do you lose weight and keep it off? Atkins advocates argue that their diet works -- as do many other diets that strictly limit food groups or calories. But is losing weight worthwhile if you go right back to your old eating habits and regain the weight? Most folks who use restrictive diets regain the lost weight and then some. That's why "diets don't work."

So What Does Work?

The bottom line with weight loss is that you have to eat fewer calories than you burn -- regardless of whether the calories come from carbs, protein, or fat. Still, the weight-loss approach that works for someone else may not work for you because losing weight is very individualized. It is up to you to find the right fit.

Regardless of the type of weight-loss program you choose, there are some fundamental keys to success. There are numerous weight-loss plans that are effective because they are built on these fundamentals for permanent weight management:

Strategies for Success

  • Make small changes in your life that work for you. Can you drink 1% or 2% milk instead of whole, and then when you're accustomed to that, eventually switch to skim? How about trying lighter or low-fat versions of your favorite mayonnaise, salad dressings, cheeses, snacks, etc.?
  • Eat with a sense of purpose: Savor the flavors and engage your senses so that you truly acknowledge that you are eating. Forget the mindless munching that happens while you cook, drive, or watch television.
  • Control your portions. Successful dieters don't supersize their meals.
  • Eat a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources, and limit the total amount of fat, alcohol, and treats.
  • Start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes some protein, in the form of low-fat milk, yogurt, lean meats, or an egg. Many overweight people skip breakfast. Start living life like a thin person, and make breakfast a healthy habit.
  • Find physical activities that you enjoy or sneak exercise into your daily routine by walking to work, taking the stairs, or parking in the outer reaches of the parking lot. Whichever you choose, do it daily, for the cardiovascular, stress reduction and calorie-burning benefits.
  • Don't try to manage your stress with food. Many people eat in response to stress. Unfortunately, food does not help you cope with stress; it simply adds calories to your daily total. Find more effective alternatives: exercise, take a bath, call a friend, surf the internet. Just steer clear of the kitchen!
  • Keep track of what you eat each day with a food journal or diary. This is an excellent way to acknowledge what you eat and be proud of your accomplishments. Take time to celebrate your achievements and reward yourself for all your hard work.
  • Read labels to determine the healthiest food options. Nutrition labels offer a wealth of information to help you make good choices. Pay attention to the serving size, calories, fat, sodium, and sugars.
  • Stay motivated! It is easy to fall off the wagon, but when you have a buddy to help and support you it is easier to brush yourself off and get right back on the eating plan. Let your friends and family support and help you through the rough times.


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