Weighing In: How do I pick a diet?

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Question: My New Years Resolution is to lose weight. Have any advice on how do I pick a diet?

    Heather: Congratulations on this important decision you've made. I am happy to say that you’re not alone in your journey. In fact, weight loss is the second most common New Years Resolution among Americans; however, 30 percent of people have abandoned their resolution by February. So if you want to be successful in this venture, it’s important to choose a weight loss method that you can maintain over the long term.

    Weight loss is most successful when achieved through lifestyle changes, so before you start a diet program, ask yourself, “can I do this forever?” Start by taking an inventory of your eating habits and the kinds of foods you have been eating and then make small changes. The easiest way to cut calories is to eat the same foods but in smaller portions – using smaller plates and bowls can help manage portion size.
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    Choose a weight loss method that includes all the food groups. Your body needs vitamins and minerals from a variety of foods and when you cut out an entire food group, your body isn’t getting everything that it needs for proper functioning. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid.gov provide good guidelines for healthy eating.

    They recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as whole wheat breads, rice, pastas and whole grain cereals. They also encourage lean meats like white meat chicken without the skin and fish rather than higher fat varieties. And limiting your total fat intake and focus on healthy fats like olive, canola and peanut oils.

    Whether you choose a diet program or choose to make dietary changes yourself, you need to make sure that it fits your lifestyle and your food preferences. Obviously, you have to be reasonable. If pizza is your favorite food, you can’t decide to eat pizza everyday and expect to lose weight. However, it is also unreasonable to expect to be able to stick to a program that doesn’t allow pizza once in a while.

    It is important to remember that diet alone isn’t enough. A well-rounded weight loss program includes physical activity. The National Weight Control Registry is a prospective study of 5,000 people who have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept the weight off for more than 5 years. Members of the registry report being physically active on a regular basis. In fact, 94 percent of people on the registry increased their physical activity in order to lose their weight and most continue to engage in vigorous activity daily.  

    Finally, keep in mind that weight loss is a marathon and not a sprint. You didn’t put your weight on overnight and so you can’t expect to take it off in a day either. A healthy rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week. If you are losing weight at a faster rate you are likely to be losing muscle instead of fat. Muscle mass helps burn fat and so by losing muscle instead of fat your weight loss will ultimately slow down.
Published On: December 27, 2007

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