“This year, I’m losing weight.” Sound familiar? It should.
It’s the mantra that millions of people will repeat as they make resolutions for 2012. Hoping this year will be different, Harris County Hospital District Clinical Nutrition Manager Shaynee Roper offers some simple steps to accomplish your goal.
It starts, she says, by recognizing that losing weight is a lifestyle change and not merely a change in diet.
“A lot of people set goals and are really gung-ho in January and February, but then their energy fades because they’re not making a lifestyle change,” says Roper, LD, RD, a registered and licensed dietitian with more than 20 years of experience. “Most want a quick fix, but if you have more than 8-10 pounds to lose, it isn’t going to be a quick fix. You have to stay on task and stick with it for 6-12 months to see results.”
Here are five tips:
1. Set small goals. A weekly goal of losing a pound or perhaps five pounds over a month is reasonable. Or better yet, don’t set weight goals, but rather set goals of reducing or eliminating bad foods like fried food or sweets.
2. Jot down everything you eat and drink for two weeks. Learn from this food journal what you can reduce and eliminate. Drink more water and eat more fruits and vegetables.
3. From your food journal, identify trigger foods that you overeat or are not healthy. When you identify these trigger foods, start with one or two that you want to reduce or eliminate from your diet. This means making sure that the unhealthy foods like candy or salty chips are not in your house or easy to get. After a few weeks, add another food from your list to reduce or eliminate or make another change to your diet.
4. Find another activity like exercise, reading a book or riding a bike to replace the urge to eat when you’re not hungry. Learn to recognize the difference between “hunger” (need to eat) and “appetite” (desire to eat). Exercising for 30 minutes a day, at least 4-5 times a week, is highly recommended.
5. Reward yourself for your accomplishments. Maybe it’s buying a new pair of shoes for achieving a weight loss or for eliminating fried foods from your diet. However, don’t reward yourself with food.
When reducing or eliminating foods from your diet, you should do it gradually.
“Pick one or two changes to make. Work on these for 2 weeks before adding more,” Roper says. “It may seem like a slow process, but remember, it’s more a lifestyle change. Doing it slowly will help you stick with it and make you feel like you’re not giving up everything all at once.”
For exercise, Roper suggests breaking up the 30-minutes of recommended activity into small 5-10 minute segments throughout the day. Maybe it’s doing leg lifts or arm curls while at a computer desk, walking a hallway or stairway or doing sit-ups or crunches while watching TV.
“Any exercise will get your metabolism revved up and into gear,” she says.
While losing weight is an individual effort, Roper encourages having family and friends support you.
“Sometimes if you have to answer to someone else like a family member or friend, you are more likely to follow the plan that you have set for yourself,” she says. “If you have to meet someone at the gym, you are more likely to show up and exercise.”
For more information or help in setting a personal weight-loss plan, consult your physician and/or a dietitian.