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Health Care

Here's what the experts say about losing weight and keeping it off
By Sandra Gordon

Raring to go

1. START WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF MOTIVATION AND COMMITMENT:

Improve your chances of weight-loss success, ask yourself two questions at the outset, suggest Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

- "Compared to how I felt before my previous diet, how motivated am I?"

- "Do I see myself committed long-term to losing and maintaining my weight?"

If you can honestly answer "Very!" and "Yes!" to these questions, you're on the right track.

Still, enthusiasm is only the beginning of the mental preparation needed to turn new behaviors into habits. "Most people have to dig deeper," says Susan Head, Ph.D., a consulting faculty member at the Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Before deciding to walk every morning, for example, ask yourself why you haven't before, and anticipate how this change is going to affect your life. Will it disrupt your work schedule, for example? Weed out goals that are overly ambitious or don't match your lifestyle.

2. DON'T TRY TO DO TOO MUCH AT ONCE:

"Will power is a limited resource," says Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. If you really want to be successful at losing weight, you should try to focus your energy on that. In other words, it's the wrong time to start a weight-loss regime if you've just gotten new responsibilities at work or if your baby is sick.

3. AIM TO LOSE JUST 10 PERCENT:

Ten percent of your body weight, that is, says Brownell. If you weight 170, for example, that's just 17 pounds. 

This doesn't mean, however, that you have to stop there. If you're able to sustain your new weight for at least as long as it took you to reach it, you might then decide that you're ready - and willing - to lose more.

4. EATING THE RIGHT WAY:

"A lot of people still think that less is better,' says C. Wayne Callaway, M.D., an associate clinical professor of Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "They skip breakfast, have a light lunch, then have trouble controlling their hunger at night," which is the classic setup for an evening pig-out.

To break the binge cycle, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner consistently, he advises, even if initially, you're not hungry at those designated times. (Soon you will be.) Your goal should be to eat enough during the day so that you won't feel hungry or deprived.

5. A HIGH-FIBER DIET CAN FILL YOU UP:

You probably know that a high-fiber diet can help fill you up, but research suggests there's another way that fiber can help you lose weight: It my actually cut the number of calories you ingest by blocking your body's ability to digest the fat and protein consumed with it. In a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study, subjects who took in 18 to 36 grams of fiber a day absorbed 130 fewer daily calories. If you were to do this every day for a year, you'd save 47,450 calories, or about 14 excess pounds (that's 47,450 divided by 3,500 the number of calories it takes to create a pound of body weight. To fiber up their diet, the subjects made simple switches, such as eating an apple instead of drinking apple juice, and having whole-wheat bread instated of white bread. Beans, bran cereal and fresh fruits and vegetables, such as pears and carrots, are some other excellent fiber sources you should eat on a more regular basis.

6. TEMPER TV WATCHING:

According to a study at the University of Minnesota each daily hour of TV viewed by female subjects was translated into an extra half-pound of weight at the years' end. TV watchers also tend to eat more calories, according to Robert Jeffrey, Ph.D., who was lead author of the study.

"A simple habit like eating in front of the television can become a conditioned response," explains James M. Ferguson, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and co-author of 'Habits, Not Diets: The secrets to Life time Weight Control.' If you nosh while watching the evening news, for example, eventually the evening news itself will make you hungry. Avoid developing this problem by eating at the dining table with the TV turned off.

7. DOWNSIZE PORTIONS:

"Put less food on your plate, and naturally, you'll eat less," says David Levitsky,Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. You might order half-portions or appetizers, instead of full-size entrees in restaurants. Try to find the lower limit of what will satisfy you and trick you hunger.

8. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP:

"You need people to tell, you, 'You can do it,' and to reinforce the importance of what you're trying to do," says G. Ken Goodrick, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. To locate a support group in your area, you might try the local directory.

9. WORK OUT REGULARLY:

Of the nearly 800 members of the National weight Control Registry (an ongoing study of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept them off for one year or longer), most get regular exercise that's equivalent to a four-mile daily walk, according to James Hill, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Colorado Clinical Nutrition Research Unit and the study's co-conductor. The participants have also figured out how to fit exercise into their routine.

10. INK IN ACTIVITY:

Remind yourself to be physically active such as by marking 'Go Swimming' in your weekly calendar. You've got to make a conscious decision to move more - and every little bit counts.

11. SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF:

While it's true that you should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity three or four days a week, that doesn't necessarily mean 30 minutes of consecutive activity. Three bouts of 10 minutes each will do, according to David Allison, Ph.D., an obesity researcher at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, who has been known to purposely pace airport hallways with a sizable carry-on bag for 10 to 15 minutes while waiting to board.

12. SNAP BACK AFTER A SLIP:

After gorging at a dinner party, you shouldn't punish yourself the next day by overdoing exercise or eating hardly anything at all. Instead, you should get right back on track and try to figure out why it happened, says Head. This is one of the most important skills for anyone to learn," she says. Whatever happened to trip you up, try to come away from the experience with ideas about what you'll do the next time this happens.

Wanting to look slim and trim may be your prime motivation for losing weight, but to be happy in the long run, says Goodrick, you've got to adopt the attitude that "I may never be thin, but at lest I can eat right, exercise and feel my very best."

Are you ready to loose weight?

Ninety percent of people who lose weight regain it within a year. That's because it's tough to make changes - even positive ones - stick. You're more likely to succeed if you're mentally prepared. To determine your behavior-change readiness, try out the stages of change Model, developed by James Prochaska, Ph.D., of the University of Rhode Island.

STAGE 1: PRE-CONTEMPLATION:

You don't intend to change problem behavior (such as being sedentary) which failed to change a number of times before. You know you're in this stage when:

- You find yourself making excuses such as, "I just don't have time to exercise," or "I'm not very athletic."

To move beyond this stage: Convince yourself that making a desired change is to your advantage. You might reap up on the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

STAGE 2: CONTEMPLATION:

You're seriously thinking about changing, but aren't committed to making it happen any time soon. You know you're in this stage when:

- You find yourself saying, "I'll start exercising when the weather is nicer," or "I'm going to wait until I'm not under so much stress at work."

To move on from this stage: Start planning how you'll bring about change. For example, start looking through cookbooks with recipes for low-fat foods. You may not actually buy the book at this stage, however.

STAGE 3: PREPARATION:

This stage is characterized by decision-making; you've made a commitment to take action within 30 days. You know you're in this stage when:

- You've really take action, such as buying the cookbook or Waling shoes, or locating a weight-loss support group. To continue on the right track: Act on your good intentions, and reward yourself with a non-food treat (such as a manicure) each week that you do.

STAGE 4: ACTION:

In this stage, you're lifestyle changes, trying to make those new behaviors a permanent part of your life - such as walking every day, not just once a week, or setting the alarm clock an hour earlier to exercise. Keep up the good work!

By special arrangement for The News

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