It’s Spring. Time to kick that weight-loss agenda into high gear in anticipation of future outdoor adventures! Elizabeth Somer, Registered Dietitian and author of "Eat Your Way to Happiness," stopped by to share her tried-and-true, fool-proof tips for losing weight and keeping it off.
1. Do you really know what works and what doesn’t for weight loss?
Yes, I’ve based my entire career for the past 30 years on studying the research. The people who are successful at losing weight follow some very consistent habits. The first one being, that they keep records. For at least the first 3 to 5 days before you jump on the diet wagon, write down everything you eat, how much, and when. Do that right at the time of eating, not later in the day when you will have forgotten. Record keeping will help you be brutally honest about your eating habits. If you wait until the end of the day to write down what you ate, you will have conveniently forgotten how much of what went into your mouth. So, keep a piece of paper and a pencil/pen with you.
Record keeping will help you identify what needs changing. It also will make you aware of how often you eat mindlessly, popping a Hershey kiss into your mouth because it is there at the teller’s window at the bank or when you taste test foods while cooking. Keep in mind, every mindless bite you take averages about 25 calories. Four mindless bites in a day and you gain or maintain another extra pound. Once you’ve identified what needs changing, you can start developing an eating plan to lose weight.
2. What else works for weight loss?
Portion control. Even when record keeping, we often seriously overestimate how many fruits and vegetables we eat, thinking the three blueberries in a Starbuck muffin is a serving or the wilted lettuce leaf in our hamburger is a serving of greens. At the same time, we underestimate our grains and meat servings. We are so inaccurate, that we typically underestimate our calories by up to 800 calories a day. The more overweight we are, the more we fudge the numbers. For one week, get out the scale and measuring cups and spoons and double-check your portions. A serving of grain is 1 ounce. A serving of vegetables is one cup raw or a half cup cooked. A serving of meat is 3 ounces. A serving of milk or yogurt is 1 cup.
3. OK. We keep records and get familiar with real serving sizes. What else?
If you are really serious about permanent weight loss, you won’t get there with any get-thin-quick fad diet. Be it Atkins or Paleo today, or the hundreds of diets before, people lose weigh initially (because they have cut calories), but very few who are successful at long-term weight management have succeeded on fad diets. You need to tailor your own preferences and diet habits to an eating style you can stick with for life. That explains why the most successful diets are Weight Watchers and the DASH diet. Those two eating plans tailor that food choices to your eating style.
4. Even if you tailor your eating habits, there must be some basic guidelines for food choices.
Yes. Focus on real, not processed foods. The more processed foods a person consumes, the more calories from fat and sugar and the fewer nutrients and fiber a person consumes. Of those real foods, the produce department should be your main stop at the grocery store. Literally thousands of studies spanning decades of research repeatedly and consistently show that diets packed with colorful fruits and vegetables lower the risk for all age-related diseases, from heart disease to dementia, extend life, and aid in healthy weight maintenance. The more produce people eat, the better, with a general recommendation to include at least 8 servings daily. This makes sense, since fruits and vegetables include two of the three nutrients known to fill you up on fewer calories, so you push away from the table before you’ve over consumed. Those two nutrients are water and fiber. A rule of thumb is to include at least 2 servings at every meal and at least one at every snack.
5. You say that having a plan is important.
You wouldn’t set off from Portland headed to New York without pulling out the map or GPS. How do you expect to get where you are going without a plan? Same goes for weight loss. Set goals, shop from a shopping list, bring food with you so you don’t end up hungry and in the drive-thro line. It takes a while to establish new habits, so plan your year’s goals, then make daily to-do lists to get there.
6. We don’t always eat perfectly according to our plans. What then?
If you fall off the diet wagon today, get right back on tomorrow. Everyone goofs now and then. Don’t allow a slip to escalate to a relapse. Also, no one eats perfectly regardless of weight. Take a moderate dose multi to fill in the gaps.
7. Are the tips for maintaining the weight loss the same as those for losing the weight in the first place?
Yes and no. The National Weight Control Registry, an on-going nationwide study, has been following people who have lost and maintained a significant amount of weight. What are they doing? Results show that they: 1) keep close tabs on their weight, weighing themselves regularly and going back to their weight-loss plan at the first sign of weight gain. 2) Nine out of ten of them also eat breakfast, which helps curb cravings later in the day, and last but not least: 3) you might be able to lose weight on diet alone, but everyone who is maintaining the weight loss exercises. And, they exercise almost daily.