So I just stepped on the scale this morning, and didn’t like what I saw. Blame it on the holidays + my recent New Year’s vacation (darn you, daily brunch pomegranate mimosas!). Although I’m at a relatively healthy BMI (calculate yours HERE ), whenever I go above the weight that’s normal for me, it’s an indicator that I overdid it in the unhealthy eating department. So now I’m motivated to tune up my body and eat more healthily, as I’m sure many of us are. I bet there’s not one empty treadmill at the local gym right now! But as for going on “a diet”, it’s hard to know where to start.
Sooo many diets out there! (Intermittent fasting, CICO, HFLC, Atkins, Paleo, etc etc etc)…then of course there’s the miracle diet pill made from a leaf found on a tree that only grows in the Amazon), you get the idea! But look, I’m all about simplicity. Like I tell my patients, weight loss is simple, but hard.
SIMPLE because the concept is: take in less calories, your body will burn excess fat to give itself energy. Eat too many calories, you body stores the extra energy in the form of fat.
HARD because although this concept makes sense, we find it hard to lose weight for a myriad of reasons. Key issues I’ve identified from the people I treat are:
-Lack of awareness of calorie intake: humans are notorious for underestimating how many calories are in certain foods. Guess the number of calories in a McDonald’s Kale salad? It’s 730…. that’s about 3 packs of peanut M&Ms. See my point?
-etting fooled by marketing of “healthy foods”
-Over-reliance on exercise as a weight loss tool: How many times have I heard “I’m exercising 30 mins a day now and I’m not losing weight!!” Then I ask “have you changed what you’re eating? [crickets] As awesome as exercise is, it takes time to burn off that McDonald’s kale salad. In very general terms, probably about 2 hours doing most types of activities. Click HERE to see how many calories you would burn during various exercises
That being said, on my first visit with patients when discussing weight loss, I don’t dive right into weight loss tips. The first, most important part, is the Informational Gathering phase:
MAKE A REALISTIC GOAL: Losing 50 lbs in 3 months? Possible, but not likely without making drastic and likely unhealthy diet choices. I always emphasize; I don’t believe in dieting. If there was an effective diet out there, everybody would be on it and we’d all look like Naomi Campbell or Jason Statham. I believe in lifestyle modifications that are sustainable. So realistically 1-2 lb a week is a safe goal.
KNOW YOUR DAILY CALORIE INTAKE LIMIT TO REACH YOUR GOAL: I love using this Calculator: input your data so you can calculate your personalized calorie goal.
START READING LABELS: Again, knowledge is power!! For any food you eat that has a label, you should know how many calories is in a serving, how many servings you’re eating, and I specifically like to see the amount of carbohydrates and fat in there. This practice starts building awareness.
KNOW YOUR FOOD’S CALORIC CONTENT: This one is tricky: I don’t like to overwhelm people with the concept of calorie counting because that can become obsessive, but I do think it’s important to ballpark that a banana is about 100 calories, 1 cup of white rice is about 200 calories etc. Because how else can we cut our caloric intake by 300 calories daily (the average amount it takes to lose a pound a week). If you’re into apps, I use MyNetDiary because you can type in your food item and see how many calories are in there, and then also use the app to….
START A FOOD DIARY: The goal of this is to increase awareness of exactly what’s going down your piehole (why does that word amuse me so much hehe). And somehow, it tends to make one more accountable; if you know you have to document that slice of cheesecake, maybe you think twice before indulging. It’s like psychological self-manipulation! Then, I like to review the food diary with patients on a regular basis and help identify patterns of poor choices, so we can make changes.
WEIGH YOURSELF FREQUENTLY: You wouldn’t believe how afraid people are of the scale. Many patients visit me monthly for their weight loss visits, and only get their weight checked at the clinic. Personally, I hop on the scale every morning at the same time (before breakfast), so I can see where I’m at and where I’m going; and if the scale is going in the wrong direction I’m more motivated to reign it in. However, if the thought of daily weigh ins are giving you palpitations, I would then recommend at least once a week. Knowledge is power!
Once we’ve mastered Part 1, then we’re ready for Part 2, where we actually use the information to make a weight loss plan. Stay tuned!
[small disclaimer: this post is about eating healthily, and includes weight loss tips for those that need to get to a healthy weight. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you have medical conditions or take medications]