Most Americans can relate to this familiar scenario: New Year’s resolutions to lose weight start out with a lot of enthusiasm and many pounds are lost using some “protein shake for breakfast and lunch”, or home delivered meals weight loss program only to be gained back along with a few extra pounds before bikini season even rolls around.
The CDC estimates that 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children age 2 to 19 are obese, and it projects that the rate will increase to 44 percent for adults by 2030. Obesity is becoming more common in children and it causes numerous health problems and chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, hormone imbalances, mood disorders, to name a few.
Every year, Americans spend over 40 billion dollars on weight loss programs and products yet our collective waist size continues to increase. I am often reminded of this fact when I see patients in one of our exam rooms, which is the only room with an exam bed used by Dr. Richard Wiseman in the earlier days of his 40-year medical practice. Most people, even the ones not considered overweight by today’s standards, cannot comfortably fit on this exam bed. The cycle of weight loss and weight gain when using weight loss products happens because the weight loss industry has a business interest in its customers gaining the weight back after they are off their program or product. In other words, they profit from people losing weight and gaining it all back because that’s what makes them come back and spend more money. Drinking protein shakes for the rest of your life, having microwaveable food delivered to your door, or adding points for what you eat all day every day is not a sustainable long-term strategy to maintain weight loss. I have never seen one of these programs teach their customers what to do AFTER the program or when they are not using the product any more.
As primary healthcare providers, our interest is in our patients losing weight and MAINTAINING the weight loss and this is why our weight loss programs focus on weight loss as well as maintenance. The focus has to be on the kind of foods people eat. Eating real, responsibly raised and grown food is the most important factor in successful weight loss. A paradigm shift must take place and people have to take a real hard look at what we call food and what we consider “tasty”. Our belief system has to change to not idolize artificial, processed, engineered foods as the ones we crave and reach for. The only way this will happen is if we start spending some of the 40 billion dollars spent on weight loss supporting our local farmers and food producers instead.
There are many other layers to the obesity problem and it is a complex issue, but the solution may not be as complex as one would think. There are some very simple steps to achieve not only weight loss and maintenance, but also a healthier and more vibrant life. Changing behavior gradually can help to make these new habits permanent. Here are some suggestions for successful weight loss:
- Eat REAL food. Eat local, seasonal, responsibly raised and grown food. Get to know your local food producers as they can provide you with the most important tools for weight loss and a healthy life. Support local farmers and ranchers and treat them with respect as they produce food to nourish our families with real, delicious, and nutritious food.
- Eat as many vegetables as possible every day with every meal, eat 1-3 servings of meat, and 1-3 servings of healthy plant based fats such as avocados, tree nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Eat 1-2 servings of fruit daily and limit alcohol and sugar consumption to occasional. Use stevia as a sweetener avoiding artificial sweeteners and sugar. Avoid processed foods, fruit juices, etc. Stay hydrated by drinking filtered water, herbal teas, unsweetened kombucha (fermented) tea, and mineral water.
- Use small plates for your meals, stop eating when you are 80 percent full, chew your food well, and enjoy the taste of your food. Try to eat at a table and avoid eating while doing other things like watching TV or driving.
- Manage stress by using stress relief techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, prayer or yoga. This only takes 5-10 minutes daily but it makes a difference in cortisol levels, which are responsible for weight gain, heart disease, and hormonal imbalance.
- Identify your triggers for emotional eating and find other behaviors to substitute for compulsive eating.
- Get yourself moving. You do not have to exercise much to lose weight. A recent study actually showed that people who exercised only 30 minutes 3-5 days per week lost more weight than those who exercised for two hours daily. The key is to just be active and get your heart rate up in some way, whether it’s hiking, climbing up and down stairs, taking a walk or bike ride around the block, or playing outside with your kids.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are “bad” and eat something you think you shouldn’t eat or if you overeat, do not punish yourself or allow negative self-talk. Having an all-or-nothing attitude can be a recipe for failure. Just move on to the next meal and make it a healthy one.
These are just a few suggestions to help you make this years weight loss journey a permanent success. If you choose to start with a more structured weight loss program, make sure it is one that focuses on weight maintenance as much as weight loss to make 2013 the last year with “lose weight” on your New Year’s Resolution list.
This article was written by Sellma Vllasi, RN, FNP-C at Wiseman Family Practice.