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Don’t Diet if You Want to Lose Weight

Healthy Weight Week is January 21-27, 2018

There are no magic diets, pills, or operations for long-term, healthy weight loss.

The idea behind Healthy Weight Week is that most diets are harmful self-esteem. People diet because they consider themselves overweight and, as punishment, they turn to deprivation and excessive calorie restriction—only making themselves more miserable. When you feel deprived all the time your diet will backfire which can lead to “binge” eating. If you do lose weight on a diet, studies show that most gain back all the lost weight…and a few pounds more!

Go Slow

It’s natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly, but evidence shows those who lose weight gradually and steadily (approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or “program.” It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.

To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in. Since a pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Once you’ve achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60 to 90 minutes, moderate intensity), you’re more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term. Commitment is key when trying to drop extra pounds.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

No matter your weight loss goal, even a modest weight loss, just 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals 10 pounds, bringing your weight down to 190 pounds. While this weight may still be in the “overweight” or “obese” range, this modest weight loss can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.

So, even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination. You’ll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. These habits can help you maintain your weight loss over time.

In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. A study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.

Change Your Habits to Change Your Weight

A healthy lifestyle involves many choices and selecting a balanced diet and healthy eating plan is perhaps the most important. So, how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let’s begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts;
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars; and
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs.

The CDC reminds us that a healthy eating plan to help you manage weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods you can’t have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat:

Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits ― Don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some “exotic” fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit? When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety. One caution about canned fruits: They may contain added sugars or syrups so be sure to choose fruit packed in water or in their own juice.

Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― Try something new and you may discover you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven’t tried…like rosemary. You can panfry vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish—just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for those without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.

Calcium-rich Foods ― You may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says “eat more dairy products,” but what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? They come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.

A New Twist on an Old Favorite ― If your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories and you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

No Need for Deprivation

Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat, or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You’ll be cutting your calories because you’re not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe calls for whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try using non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach, and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size.

The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Our cultural obsession with thinness is having a significant impact on people’s mental health. It could be that because of this approximately 24 million people in the United States have some form of eating disorder—and his includes regularly suffering from unhealthy diets that can cause serious health problems in the long run. This is why Healthy Weight Week aims to change the way we see ourselves and promote the healthy approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Try these tips and make 2018 the year you change your habits, find your healthy weight, and live your best life.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting

(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Magee Rehabilitation Hospital; National Weight Control Registry; Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020; and Consumer Health Digest.)