Experts Say Weight Loss Requires A Plan, Lifestyle Change And Support
Did you pledge to get to a healthier weight this year? January is a time when many people set that goal but ultimately many are unable to achieve it. So it’s important to take steps to improve your prospects for success and to recognize there are several factors that make it hard for people to lose weight and keep it off, say health care professionals.
“It’s a very complex issue,” said Dr. Christopher Chapman, assistant professor of medicine and director of bariatric and metabolic endoscopy at UChicago Medicine. “Some things are out of one’s control."
That can include medications patients are on to treat medical conditions — medicines that have the side effect of weight gain.
“Genetics can play a role; Sometimes, it runs in the family,” said Dr. Jennette Berry, a family practice physician specializing in women’s health and obesity medicine at Advocate Medical Group in Olympia Fields.
Some health conditions like arthritis can be a factor, she said.
“Many people are dealing with back and knee pain,” she said. “They want to lose the weight, but it’s difficult.”
For folks who’ve been overweight for a long period of time, the body can work against your weight loss plans, said Mary Condon, wellness dietitian at UChicago Medicine’s Ingalls Outpatient Diabetes and Wellness Center in Flossmoor. “If you’ve been obese the majority of your life, it’s harder to lose because your body always wants to be at that weight."
So if you start to lose weight, your hunger hormones can increase and the hormones that make you feel full can decrease resulting in weight regain, said Condon, who is also a licensed dietitian nutritionist.
Mental health can also play a role. Sometimes when people are depressed, they either eat too little, which can slow down their metabolism, or they eat too much causing weight gain, Berry said.
Lack of sleep and increased stress also make it harder to shed the pounds.
“Lack of sleep increases hunger hormones and cortisol levels,” and people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more, said Condon.
The environment we live in also poses a challenge.
“We live in an environment where we have so many cues for foods that are high in sugar, high in salt high in fat, and at a biological level, we are programmed to seek those kinds of food out,” said Jennifer Wildes, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at UChicago Medicine.
She noted generally losing the weight is actually the less difficult part of the process of weight loss. Keeping it off is the bigger challenge, she said, because if you’re going to lose weight, you have to change your pattern of behavior.
“You need to cut roughly 500 calories a day from your diet. Often people can be fairly successful in the short term. You will see good results in behavioral weight loss trials,” she said. "It’s when you get to the point of maintaining the weight. It gets very difficult because you’re not getting the rewards that you get by seeing changes on the scale, but you’re still having to maintain behavioral changes.”
If you want to lose weight and maintain at a healthy level, you have to see it as a long haul change in your life, said Wildes, who is also director of the Eating Disorders Research Program at the University of Chicago.
Those beginning a weight loss journey should start with a reality check, health care professionals say.
“You see everybody at the first of the year running to the gym,” Berry said. “But a common mistake people make is setting their expectations too high. This is January. You have to set small goals. You can’t say by March, I’m going to lose 30 pounds.”
Losing one to two pounds a week is more realistic, she noted, stressing “don’t set yourself up for failure.”
Condon uses the SMART acronym to make sure goals are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timed.
“So instead of saying your goal is to get healthy or lose weight, say my goal is to lower my blood sugar by 30 points in three months by limiting my carb intake to 30 grams per meal," she said. “Or my goal is to lose 10 pounds in three months by exercising 30 minutes per day Monday through Friday walking on the treadmill.”
It’s important to have an accountability partner to help keep you on track and motivated, Berry and Condon said.
If you’re considering a particular weight loss program, “support and ongoing feedback is very important whether in person or by phone, online or through combination of these,” as is regular physical activity, Condon advised.
Weighing yourself weekly and maintaining logs of what you eat and your physical activity should also be a part of your weight loss and maintenance plan, she said, as should behavioral and lifestyle counseling.
Kairis Stanton, says bariatric surgery and a strong counseling and support system helped her lose 120 pounds, and get off of blood pressure medication. She said the surgery was no easy fix. Afterward she had periods of weight regain.
“I have to stay focused to keep the weight off,” she shared.
“I learned that I’m an emotional eater. I’m a stress eater,” said Stanton, 38, who lives in Lansing. “Now if I start feeling stressed out and want to grab a bag of chips, I’ll go for a walk. I’ll get on the treadmill. I’ll write in my journal. There are things that are therapeutic for me that have taken the place of binging on junk food.”
She says she still works with a nutritionist and attends support groups, and Berry, her primary health care physician, helps her stay on track.
“Working with a team is important,” she said. “That helps me keep the weight off.”
Linda McCormick Ervin, who enrolled in a healthy lifestyle class at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, said that helped her lose 10 pounds. The class included sessions on nutrition, fitness, stress management, cooking demonstrations and a grocery store visit. The class has helped her learn about healthier recipes and to make healthier food decisions, and she now consumes more fruits and vegetables.
“It’s about lifestyle change,” said Ervin, 62.
Keeping that in mind, Wildes and Condon advise avoiding fad diets that cut out whole food groups. They’re typically not sustainable, said Condon.
Condon also says to recognize that you’re going to slip up at times. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful going forward.
“Be patient with the process, and know you’re worth it,” said Stanton.
Francine Knowles is a freelance columnist for the Daily Southtown.
This Theory May Explain Why It's So Hard To Lose Weight
You lose five pounds. Then, you gain it back. This is a common experience for many people who try to lose weight. In fact, research shows that those who lose weight often regain the weight — plus more.
Why does this happen? One possible explanation is called set point theory, which is becoming more well-known as intuitive eating gains popularity. “It’s the idea that we have a genetically pre-determined body weight range that changes over the course of your life,” explains Kristen Carli, RDN. These changes are due to the on the metabolism shifts that happen with age thanks to hormones, the way we digest food, and many other factors. Think about it: the weight where you felt most comfortable in high school is probably different from the weight where you feel most comfortable in your 20s, 40s, 60s, and beyond.
But here’s the kicker: Your body will defend your set point weight. “If it senses a famine, it will adjust accordingly by being more efficient,” explains Rebecca McConville, RD, CSSD, a sports dietitian and author of Finding Your Sweet Spot. So if you’re dieting and eating less than usual, your body may conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism, or turn up your drive to eat, causing hunger. “The brain doesn’t make the distinction between intentional under-fueling as in a diet versus a famine,” McConville adds.
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So if the theory holds true, it could explain why it’s so difficult to lose weight. If your body likes where it is weight-wise, it will resist changing. Similarly, if you overeat, you’re likely to have more energy and move around more. Research has shown that non-exercise activities like walking and fidgeting increases when people eat more food than they need—although the degree to which this happens varies from person to person.
But is a set point weight a real thing?
“I find it to be true in my counseling practice,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author Body Kindness. Some people come to her having already lost weight, she says. The problem? They’ve gotten there by eliminating foods they really like — usually carb and sugar-heavy foods like ice cream and cake. “They complain not only of hunger and anxiety around eating certain foods, but also things like irritability and inability to continue weight loss,” — almost as if their body is resisting being pushed any further, Scritchfield says.
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Scritchfield works with these clients using a compassion-based approach to heal their relationship with food (no matter their starting size). Often, this results in weight gain, as they get back up to their set point.
The idea of set point weight is also gaining traction on social media, with over 11,000 posts on Instagram. That’s likely because it’s used by both the fitness and eating disorder recovery communities to describe the weight where your body naturally wants to be.
Her plan was simple: eat as much as she needed to feel full. No calorie or macro counting, no restrictions, and no special diets. She knew she’d probably gain weight eating with this intuitive approach, and she did.
But there is still some disagreement over whether set point weight is a real thing. One of the common criticisms is that set point theory doesn’t explain obesity.
Part of the problem with that argument, though, is that we tend to assume everyone’s set point weight fits in within the “healthy ideal.”
“Society still values thinness, so those people with higher set points aren’t treated the same as those of us with more socially acceptable weights,” Scritchfield explains. “That’s a problem we all should address.”
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Should you go “all in”?
Eating until you feel satiated is one of the cornerstones of movements like intuitive eating, mindful eating, Health at Every Size, and “all in.” But it’s not always easy to do.
“Learning to listen to your body's cues is hard in this day and age,” says Taryn A. Myers, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Virginia Wesleyan University, who studies body image and disordered eating. “We tend to eat on the go, in front of our screens, or during other tasks, and thus we do not pay attention to what our body is telling us about when it has adequate nutrients at that point in time.”
What’s more, we get a lot of mixed messages about how we are supposed to eat and look. “The most apt description I've heard of our society is that it is a McDonald's next to a bikini store,” Myers says. “We get messages to eat, eat, eat but also to look a way that is not compatible with the message to eat.” That’s a powerful argument for using internal cues to decide how much you should eat rather than external ones.
“If you listen to your bodily cues, you tend to hit that set point weight without even trying,” Myers adds. “Your body will just settle where it should be if you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Clearly, you should also ensure that you will not end up with nutritional deficiencies, but eating until full and stopping is a great way to tap into our bodies' innate abilities to regulate our weight.”
While the “all in” approach specifically targets those who are struggling with hunger, anyone with a history of dieting can benefit from examining their relationship with food, Scritchfield says. “If you’re not dealing with significant insatiable hunger or minor physical complaints related to restriction, there may still be lots of work psychologically: Who am I if I’m not a dieter? If I eat whatever I want? And behaviorally, how do I let myself have pizza and enjoy it? You literally need to be able to sit down and eat pizza. That may take trying it 10 times or more than 20 times before it feels more comfortable.”
Whether you’re interested in going “all in” or just taking a more intuitive approach, here’s how you can start working towards a healthier relationship with food.
Get in touch with your hunger cues.
“I recommend using a scale from 1 to 10. After eating a balanced plate of food, wait 20 minutes and fill out how full you truly are,” says Toby Amidor, RD, CDN. “Oftentimes it takes the brain 20 to 30 minutes to register if you are really full after eating. If you are not feeling satisfied 20 to 30 minutes after eating, then add on a healthy option that contains more fiber, protein, or healthy fat.”
If the idea of going “all in” doesn’t seem right for you, try working your way up to eating foods you once deemed off limits. “I have clients start gently at first with adding a few foods in, but having them daily to desensitize themselves to the food,” McConville says. Add one or two more foods each week to work towards food freedom.
Get an expert opinion.
Myers’ biggest suggestion is to work with a trained professional to find out if “all in” or another approach would work best for you. “Doctors and nutritionists who know an individual's health history and have specific training in these issues will give the best guidance for that individual's health.”
Lose Visceral Fat: Effective Diet Plan That Will Make You Say ‘Goodbye Fat’
Visceral fat is dangerous as it can lead to life-threatening consequences
It is important that you try to get rid of it at the earliest
There is one diet proven to be effective in getting rid of this fat
If you’re wondering how to lose visceral fat, then you are not alone. Many people today have come to understand the danger that visceral fat exposes the body to. Health experts recommend that one must find ways and means to get rid of this fat or else suffer from a number of health consequences.
Visceral fat is the one that is stored in the abdominal cavity area, which you could not see. When a buildup of this fat is created, you are exposing yourself to the risk of heart disease, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, and even breast cancer. There is just one thing that could prove as a consolation despite the presence of visceral fat. You can still get rid of it. One diet plan has been touted by many health experts as the solution on how to get rid of visceral fat.
Studies have stated that by fasting, you may be able to lose visceral fat. A dedicated review of several studies has shown that intermittent fasting can help reduce the amount of visceral fat in the body by 4 to 7 percent. This means fasting for up to 24 weeks. It must be noted that intermittent fasting is directed at the times that you would be eating and the periods that you should refrain from eating, and not on the kind of food that you will be eating.
3 Kinds of Fasting
Express reported that there are three kinds of intermittent fasting that you could choose from. These are the 16/8 method, the 5:2 diet, and the eat-stop-eat method.
The first method, 16/8, requires you to skip breakfast and to refrain from eating for 16 hours, with an 8 hour eating period. This means that you can eat for 8 hours, but you must not eat anything when the 8-hour window ends. For 16 hours, there must be no food intake. This is where the fasting comes in.
The 5:2 method involves days wherein you would be fasting. For five days, you would normally eat without having to think of anything, but for the other two days, you would only restrict your calorie intake and only consume 500 to 600 calories.
As for the eat-stop-eat method, it would require you to fast for 24 hours. One good example of doing this is to eat dinner tonight, then count 24 hours before you can resume eating. You can do this once a week. Others do it twice.
Why Intermittent Fasting
As per health experts, when you do intermittent fasting, it will help you reduce your calorie intake. At the same time, it could fairly lead to weight loss. One caveat, though, during times that you can eat, make sure that you don’t eat without any restraint. Overeating during eating periods may render your intermittent fasting ineffective.