Weight loss science – the causes, cures, and consequences relating to obesity – is still evolving, but with the understanding of consequences being the most developed.
The penalty of being overweight includes diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, generally being less productive and basically an entire decline in life experiences. Causes are being hotly debated and cures are as numerous as they are unsuccessful.
More than 10 percent of the world’s population is overweight, with Mexico now exceeding the United States as the most overweight country in the world. The worldwide concern for this problem is of real importance as resources become scarce and we all desire to become more productive.
What can be done to change the course of our increasingly obese world? Starting as individuals, we have opportunity. First some basic science: 3,500 calories equals one pound. Most everyone who has ever tried to lose weight has been told to eat less and exercise more so that a negative calorie balance becomes the new normal for your lifestyle.
There are at least 10 medically proven ways to lose weight, according to a recent WebMD article by dietician Kathleen Zelman.
1. Keep a journal. Although cumbersome at first, having the diligence to record what we consume and how we exercise is the single best, most effective, and safest behavior to lose weight. In our electronic age going digital can be very effective, as many foods and even some cafeterias have bar codes which can be scanned to add to a food diary. In addition, there are numerous calorie-counting websites and apps to facilitate the process. Including in your notes how you felt and your emotional state of mind – if you overindulged or were diligent – will be helpful as you try to permanently change your habits.
2. Exercise daily. We live in a world which is too convenient. Try parking as far away from a store entrance to pick up extra steps. Climb stairs rather than riding an elevator. Thirty minutes a day is probably the best investment you can make in your own health. Having a friend to exercise with makes it much more likely you will remain diligent; socializing makes sweating more fun.
3. Eating more calcium, according to research and studies conducted at the University of Tennessee, speeds up weight loss by 50 percent to 70 percent. Yogurt, cheese, and milk – particularly the low fat versions – are both good for bones and weight loss.
4. Consuming high quality protein such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat, low-fat dairy and beans – totaling between 15 percent and 35 percent protein in your diet – preserves muscle mass and facilitates weight reduction.
5. Believe in breakfast! The National Weight Control Register cites breakfast as a key factor for weight control. Folks who eat breakfast tend to be thinner since food intake in the morning keeps blood sugar and hormone levels stable, encouraging a higher level of metabolism the rest of the day and burning more calories.
6. Don’t skip meals. Going longer than four to five hours without food causes your metabolism to start to close down in an effort to conserve energy and decrease calorie expenditure. Ultimately, this is a way to gain, not lose weight.
7. Be patient. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. The average American gains 1-3 pounds per year according to the surgeon general. Expecting quicker results for loss is unrealistic. Slower weight loss usually means more fat than muscle has been lost, which is healthier in the long run.
8. Develop a support system. Having a buddy with a similar goal – or, better yet, a group support system – is so important. The support group concept has had desired results in many situations, and can be a source of knowledge, encouragement and even fun. Successful (weight) losers have friends on the same journey.
9. Go for a colorful diet. Fruits and vegetables are full of color because they contain vitamins and minerals. Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli are full of Vitamin K. Grapefruit contains potassium. Whole grains tend to fill us up and are good for the entire gastric track.
10. Give yourself nice rewards for each milestone. Boosting your self-esteem with a new outfit, nice trip, relaxing afternoon, a few pina coladas or whatever non-food reward works for you, will perpetuate the virtuous cycle of weight loss and reward, and is quite effective.
Having a long-term mindset with a defined goal will help you live a longer, happier, and healthier life. At the same time, our community, country, and world benefits as you remain healthy and at your desired weight. We can change and must change in order to leave a better legacy.
Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO and president of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida, from 1977 to 2000.