The beginning of the year tends to be an opportunity for many people to make a fresh start with regards to creating habits and patterns of self care that work for improving or maintaining health. A very common concern in January is to lose weight, get in shape and find the diet or meal plan that really finally works.
There are many factors that make weight loss different for each individual. For example, each person is different; different weight, different lifestyle, different tastes, and so on. I have found that in order to make weight loss successful, the steps needed have to become a part of a person’s life and it cannot be a burden.
Finding the perfect diet can take time. I suggest finding a diet that works for your lifestyle and what is important to you. The trickiest, yet most vital, part of making a diet work and making it sustainable, is finding a diet for the long-term rather than a short term.
Fad diets typically don’t work for most people because they don’t provide the necessary nutrients needed for long term successful and sustainable weight loss. When people follow a diet that doesn’t provide them with these nutrients they will tend to lose mainly water weight, or muscle mass, which we do not want as maintaining muscle is key to burning excess calories. There is a lot more to dieting that just calorie intake. If you cut calories and accordingly cut protein intake to a deficient level, you may lose muscle and hurt your metabolism in the long run.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, which I think everyone does, you need to ensure you consume key nutrients from lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. Eating less total calories while focusing on the quality nutrients present is key. Most people also need to eat less sugars, drink less alcohol, decrease simple carbohydrates and watch total fat intake.
While individual differences in choices of foods and timing of meals will vary depending upon what works for you, there are some factors that I recommend most people focus on. I can’t stress enough that you actually need to fuel your body and actually eat consistently to lose weight. My patients see the best results when they have three meals a day accompanied by quality snacks that contain lean protein. This keeps your metabolism burning at a consistent rate throughout the day. While it is important to eat enough protein, timing also matters as your body can only utilize about 4-6 ounces of protein at any meal. Any extra is not stored for later use, it is converted into fat for storage. It’s hard to kick your metabolism into gear if you eat 2 or fewer larger meals a day. I also recommend that almost all people focus on incorporating more non- starchy vegetables into their meals and snacks as most of us don’t eat enough of them.
Some people really feel empowered by cooking and preparing all of their meals themselves. Others find this a time burden that is overwhelming. Many of my patients have found that a combination of cooking meals while also relying on ready prepared healthy meals allows them to fit in the nutrition they need within a busy life.
An important key is to think about how you respond to certain foods. Many people feel best if they incorporate some favorite treats like a piece of chocolate, glass of wine or piece of bread into their diet on a fairly regular basis. However, some people find that this plan of moderation is a disaster for them. One piece of chocolate leads to an entire bag of chocolate, one glass of wine leads quickly to two or three or one piece of bread leads to many more. If this is something that happens to you, a better plan is to remove the “problem” foods from the diet and only add them back in a controlled setting. Some people can eat ten potato chips and stop. If that is not you, don’t bring them into the house and have a daily battle of willpower. Rather have chips with lunch out at a restaurant. Ask for a few and when they are gone, they are gone.
The key is not to lump all foods into “good” or “bad” and ban the “bad” ones forever. Rather figure out how to incorporate them, if they are important to you, in a way that leaves you confident in your ability to maintain control over your food choices and achieve the health outcomes you would like. Our team of dietitians and medical providers at Cederquist Medical Wellness Center enjoys helping our patients create empowering lifestyle plans, taking into account medical and metabolic issues as well as important lifestyle considerations.
Cederquist Medical Wellness Center