what the experts say about losing weight and keeping it off
By Sandra Gordon
WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF MOTIVATION AND COMMITMENT:
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,
- "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.
TRY TO DO TOO MUCH AT ONCE:
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
3. AIM TO
LOSE JUST 10 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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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