Tis the season for post-holiday guilt, not just about the extra money you spent over the holidays, but the pounds you gained. Market reports show that sales of diet products peak in January and February, rise again in May and June, sag sharply in October and are at their lowest level in December. If you=ve resolved again this year to lose the same 10 to 20 pounds you=ve lost and regained so many times before, it may be time to reassess your goals and your action plan.
First, your goals. Do you really need to lose weight, or mostly regain a higher level of fitness? Short-term goals, like looking good for a specific event, can provide excellent motivation to follow a weight-loss plan. However, to be successful in the long run, such goals need to be realistic and combined with an on-going long-term goal of slow weight loss, increased fitness and long-term weight and fitness maintenance.
Studies show that the more slowly you reduce your weight, the more likely you are to stay that way. There are good reasons for this. First, a slow steady rate of weight loss insures that pounds come off as fat, not water and lean tissue. Secondly, the less drastic the calorie reduction, the less the body will try to hold on to calories by expending less energy. Finally, it=s easier to convert small reductions in calorie intake into daily habits that become routine than it is larger reductions.
A good recommendation for those with 10 to 20 pounds to lose is to reduce calorie intake by 250 calories each day. Assuming you=re maintaining weight on your current daily calorie intake, reducing that intake by 250 should result in a 3500 calorie deficit in two weeks or a two-pound weight loss per month. Over a year’s time, that’s 24 pounds.
Sounds simple enough, but what 250 calories? Any 250 calories will do B a candy bar, 25 potato chips, a handful of peanuts, a cup of ice cream will all work. Foods high in fat are the best ones to target because fat is the most concentrated source of calories and studies indicate that it converts most easily to fat stores.
For your weight management program to work you need to avoid both the extra calories that contributed to your original problem and another 250 calories. Look at your usual diet and see where you can cut calories without foregoing nutritional value. Perhaps the answer lies in using less margarine or butter on breads and vegetables, eating one instead of two or three rolls, substituting black coffee for your morning latte, switching from whole or 2 percent to non-fat milk, skinning chicken and trimming meats before cooking them, or selecting fresh fruit rather than fruit pie for desserts. Whatever your choice or combination of choices, make them something that becomes so routine, you almost forget you=re on a diet.
Also, there=s nothing magical about 250. If 10 pounds is all you want to lose, you can cut back by just 100 calories a day and still reach your goal within a year=s time. And, for someone who needs to lose 50 pounds or more, a somewhat higher reduction in calorie intake may be appropriate. A physician or dietitian can help determine a safe and effective level. Just remember, Aslowly@ is the password.
For this method to work you also need to include activity in your plan. More on that next week.