The tough love truth about how to lose weight

Written by: on Sunday, October 16th, 2011

It’s New Year’s—and with the holiday and festivities (and holiday hang-overs) come the inevitable resolutions to lose weight. Before you get started on your diet, here are a few basic “tough love” facts about weight that are good to be aware of:

woman weighing herself on a scale

Don't avoid the scale: it can keep you on track.

1) Obesity starts with just a 5-pound weight gain. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again. People aren’t born obese, but they can certainly be heavy when they’re young (as we can see from the staggering numbers of children and adolescents now struggling with obesity). It can also happen to anyone at any age—and as you get older and your metabolism starts to slow down, it gets even easier to put on weight. It starts with gaining just a few pounds…and then a few more…and then even more. And that’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about your weight throughout your life; if you put on 5 pounds, work to take it off right away…as the more you gain, the harder it will get, guaranteed. If this means you have to weigh yourself every day or every week, so be it.

2) No one is to blame but you. Yes, we can point to the high fructose corn syrup in so many foods as the culprit; we can blame all those unhealthy fast food companies that make junk food cheaper to eat than healthier fare; we can point fingers at our genetic makeup, our emotions, our lack of willpower, our love of food… And sure, these may contribute to your weight gain, but the truth is: no one is forcing you to overeat. The only person you have to blame for putting on weight is yourself.

 

Weight Watchers location next to Porkys in Lindhurst, New Jersey

A real-life picture about how hard the choices in life are! (Actual picture from Lindhurst, New Jersey)

3) Nothing in life comes easy—and weight loss is no exception. For some reason, people today believe that losing weight should come fast—and most disturbing—easily. All it takes is one look at the preponderance of diet pills on the market, detox diets, miracle cures…and even—to some degree—gastric bypass surgery. The idea is that someone else can provide the cures to our problems, when in fact it all starts from the ability within oneself to change. But so many people today don’t look at their weight issues that way: they want solutions and they want someone else to provide them, fast … and essentially do the work for them. Bottom line is there is simply no substitute for changing, and cutting down on, what you eat and exercising regularly.

 

woman and man exercising outdoors

Make exercise a daily habit and you

4) You don’t like to exercise? Tough. There is no question that exercise—moving your body—is absolutely essential to keeping your body healthy. Yes, it’s hard sometimes—really, really hard—to get motivated, but it’s not optional. Period. And this starts in childhood: the more kids sit around and watch TV or use the computer, the less time they’re outside being active. I notice this firsthand with my son: in the winter, it’s hard to motivate him to get outdoors and he puts on weight as a result. But in the summer when he’s more active, he drops it naturally. I’ve found the same is true for me: if I don’t make it a priority to get to the gym—no matter what the season—I pack on pounds. (And just so you know: I’ve never been a skinny model type who doesn’t have to work out—and most people aren’t.) What it takes is at least 30 minutes of activity (walking, an exercise video, cardio, etc) most days. If you’re able to get in 3 to 4 days a week, that works. The key: this is not a program that you’re doing for 3 or 4 or 5 months to slim down for some event or trip. This is for life.

5) If you’re an obese woman, you will have a tougher time in life than a man. This fact disturbs me too but it’s true. Last year, the journal Obesity published a study suggesting that obesity was a political asset — in men, not in women, despite what people were saying recently about Chris Christie. The truth is: no matter how much you try to deny it, you will be looked at differently than your thinner peers. Rather than getting steamed up about it, use that energy to do something about it. Make a commitment to be healthier for you. And I can guarantee you that you’ll not only feel better about yourself, you’ll be healthier and you’ll exude more confidence. And that goes a long way in your job and in your life.

And for any of you who might get angry by my words here, saying things like: “You don’t know how difficult it is, you haven’t been there,” I can say this: With each of my pregnancies, I gained 50 to 70 pounds. No I wasn’t obese, but I was definitely much heavier after giving birth. And I can tell you that I had to work hard to get my weight back down: it took time (almost a year after each pregnancy), consistent exercise (even on days when I did not want to do anything!), and willpower, but slowly and steadily the weight came off. And the same holds true for everyone who follows these simple tough-love rules.

The beauty of weight loss is that everyone can do it—and keep it off for good.

 

How to Lose Weight—So it Stays Off for Good

Written by: on Saturday, August 6th, 2011
Woman weighing herself on scale

Go easy on yourself! Your frustrating lack of weight loss may have nothing to do with lack of willpower!

How to lose weight is the number one reason people choose to make a nutrition appointment with me. They express frustration they “cannot do something as simple as lose a few pounds.” While few of my clients are obese, their frustrations match those of dieters in the general population.

At a conference presented by Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center (July 13-14, 2011), researchers addressed some of the issues that contribute to difficulty losing weight. Perhaps the following highlights might offer insights if you are among the many [people] who struggle with shedding some unwanted body fat.

Why gaining weight is so easy
• To the detriment of our health, we are living in a food carnival. No wonder today’s kids enter adulthood 20 pounds heavier than in 1960! By the time kids are 4 to 5 years old, 60 percent of them have lost the ability to self-regulate food intake.

• Most people believe that obesity is a matter of will power, but it’s not that simple. For example, in obese people, the brain’s response to food odors and flavors is often blunted. Compared to lean people, they need more of a food to experience a positive brain response.

French fries

Some people may be more predisposed to eating junk food than others.

 

• When stressed, obese people (more so than their lean counterparts) seek high fat foods. Chips, ice cream, fries…

• Impulsivity, a genetic trait, is a risk factor for obesity. That is, obese people (more than their lean counterparts) tend to impulsively eat, let’s say, the whole plate of cookies.

• Food advertisements are designed to encourage impulsive consumption. Food advertisers know that marketing “works”—and kids who watch TV are a prime target. The average child sees an average of 13 food ads a day on TV; most of these foods are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

In fact, research with children who watched TV with four ads for food ate 45 percent more Goldfish Crackers (100 calories more) when exposed to the ads for food as compared to when they watched four ads for games. The kids who liked the taste of Goldfish ate even more calories!

Plus, foods marketed with a character (such as Scooby-Doo) sell better. Fifty-two percent of pre-schoolers said the character-food tasted better (as opposed to 38 percent who said it tasted the same, and 10 percent who said food without the character tasted better).

• When the calories are listed near a food, as is happening in many fast food restaurants, some people choose the foods with higher calories, believing it will be yummier. That response certainly negates the intention of the calorie campaign!

• People make an average of 200 food choices in a day; all these decisions can deplete our limited mental “resources” that govern self-regulation. That’s one reason why, at the end of a hectic day, you can more easily overeat. You lack the mental resources to say “no” to that tempting cookie…

bags of chips at the supermarket

So many choices...so little nutrition!

 

• The standard supermarket diet is rich in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. It causes obesity in rats. That is, rats fed standard rat chow maintained a normal weight. But rats fed a standard supermarket diet ended up overweight—until researchers took away that food. The rats then lost weight when they returned to eating rat chow. There’s little doubt that fats, sugar, and salt stimulate us to eat more than we need!

The food industry’s bottom line is always profits. When Pepsi started marketing more of its healthy products, sales of the unhealthy products dropped. The stockholders complained—and that puts the food industry in a bind.

How to lose weight—so it stays off for good

Drugs are not the answer. For the past 20 years, no successful weight-loss drugs have been developed and none are in sight in the near future. Drugs that regulate appetite also impact many other regulatory centers and create undesired side effects. Hence, we need to learn how to manage the obesity problem at its roots—and that means prevent excessive fat gain in the first place, starting in childhood. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

• Reduce your food intake by using your imagination. That is, if you imagine eating a food, let’s say, ice cream, you can eat less of it.

• Technology offers a glimmer of hope in the battle of the bulge. A free application for iPhones called Lose It! has created a thriving weight loss community, as measured by 7.5 million free app downloads since October 2010. The web version, www.LoseIt.com, is just as popular. LoseIt! members can conveniently and easily track their food and calorie intake.

Lose It! includes a social network. Dieters seem to prefer online support from people they do not know, as opposed to involving their family and friends with their dieting progress (or lack there of). LoseIt!’s social groups are created according to goals. Dieters can easily (and anonymously) connect with and get support from others with similar goals. In fact, the best predictor of weight loss success with LoseIt! is having three or more Lose It! buddies.

baby carrots

If an ad campaign can increase sales of baby carrots, imagine what one could do for other fruits and veggies!

 

• Food advertisements are designed to trigger certain pleasure centers. (For example, McDonald’s is associated with happiness.) We now need to learn how to advertise healthy foods. The baby carrot campaign to “eat ‘em like junk food” has boosted sales 10 percent—including a new demand for baby carrots in school vending machines.

• We can change our brain circuits by substituting food with another stimuli, such as exercise. Exercise does more than burn calories to control weight; exercise changes the reward systems in the brain.

Exercise also supports self-control. That is, people who exercise have greater control over what they eat. They also have more control over sticking with their exercise program. Successful exercisers are able to make exercise a habit, and not a choice. Having one less decision to make bolsters their mental resources so they can cope better overall.

A final thought: Somehow we need to change the perception that eating supermarket foods loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated fats gives us satisfaction. A few years ago, we changed the perception that smoking is satisfying. Parents stopped smoking when kids came home and said “Mom, Dad, please don’t smoke.” Today, we need kids to start saying “Mom, Dad, please don’t take me to McDonald’s.” Will that day ever come…?

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Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD August 2011