Americans spend $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products. Yet, despite all that effort and money, only 2 percent of the people who actually lose weight will be able to keep the weight off longer than five years. There's a solution: Simple, healthy eating patterns.
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"I have tried every diet out there, but they don't work. I can't keep this weight off."
Sound familiar? I hear it almost every day: People frustrated with fad diets that produce short term results but fall monumentally short at producing life-long success. As a weight loss surgeon, I have dedicated my career to ending the fad diet "roller coaster." The fact is, fad diets are doomed to fail. Most require changes that aren't sustainable for a lifetime, not to mention that they are expensive.
Everyone who is trying to lose weight has heard at some point "… just eat less and exercise more …" If it were that simple, not only would I not have a job, but the diet industry as a whole would not exist. Americans spend $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products. Yet, despite all that effort and money, only 2 percent of the people who actually lose weight will be able to keep the weight off longer than five years. It is apparent to me that we have lost sight of simple, healthy eating patterns. Here are some helpful tips that I pass along to my patients:
● Protein, protein, protein. Follow me? Protein should be the first thing in your mouth at every meal (and that includes breakfast -- don't skip it). As a general rule, proteins are slower digesting than carbohydrates, so they keep you feeling full for longer periods.
● Eat five small meals a day rather than two to three large meals. This will help keep blood sugar levels more even. It also allows your body to utilize the calories more efficiently where they are needed rather than having to store calories as fat.
● Not all carbs are created equally. They get a lot of bad press. The fact is, your body needs carbs, but the majority of your carbohydrate calorie intake should come from complex sources. Things like brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and beans are good sources of complex carbs. Simple carbs should come from your fruits and vegetables. Speaking of veggies, make sure you are eating them. Green veggies especially are great sources of fiber and vitamins, and most Americans don't get enough.
● Drink water and ditch the pop. (Yes even the diet pop). Dehydration can cause all sorts of problems. Your goal should be at least 64 ounces of water per day.
These are just some general guidelines, and any nutrition plan should be discussed with your physician or a dietician.
What about exercise? Despite the vast benefits known to coincide with regular exercise, only 3 out of 10 Americans are doing it regularly.
Regular exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some cancers. It is a natural mood lifter and can also increase bone density.
So why aren't more Americans doing this regularly? I find that most people set their goals too high to start. To most, starting an exercise program is some grandiose ordeal that never comes to fruition because they burn out quickly.
If I weren't a runner, and my goal was to run in the Chicago marathon, I would not go out on my first training day and run 20 miles. If I did, I would more than likely get hurt, and very frustrated.
The same applies when starting an exercise program. Your first exercise regimen should not be an hour of intense cardio seven days a week. That is a set up for failure.
Start simple. Walk at moderate pace for 30 minutes three times a week. The goal is to get to an hour a day at least five times a week.
Here are some simple tricks to help you stick to an exercise program.
● Be realistic. Don't expect to be able to run four miles or bike 15 on your first outing. Start slow and work your way up.
● Find a workout partner. Accountability will help you stick with a program.
● Have fun. Turn activities you enjoy into your workouts. Biking, walking the dog, dancing, martial arts-these are all great ways to burn some calories. Exercise can be many things as long as the heart rate goes up. Be creative.
● Change things up on a regular basis. Nothing can kill an exercise program like boredom. I recommend changing up your routine every three to four months. Don't be afraid to include some resistance training.
● Give yourself a break. It's OK if you miss a workout here and there. Sometimes, you need a mental and physical break. Just make sure you don't stay off the wagon for too long. The hardest thing about exercising is starting out, and now that you have conquered that, don't make yourself do it all over again.
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to weight loss. Making just a few simple changes can get you on the road to life-long success.
Matthew Fourman, M.D., is Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery at the Mercy Weight Management Center.
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