Most individuals who wish to lose weight typically begin their diet around the first of the year or even the beginning of spring, as bathing suit season is just around the corner. Although we are smack-dab in the middle of summer, it is not too late to attain a healthy lifestyle.
With so many gimmicks, gadgets and diet fads on the market that guarantee weight loss, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up altogether. However, when you understand the basic building blocks of healthy living, you can enjoy weight-loss success for life. Don’t fall into the trap of empty promises; instead, focus on tried-and-true techniques that take weight off slowly but surely. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling healthy and fitting into your favorite pair of jeans.
1) Forget the Diet, Change Your Lifestyle
“Don’t think ‘diet’—this word implies a temporary approach to weight loss. Instead, think ‘lifelong meal plan,’” says Lisa Giles, MS, RD, LD, CDE, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Northside Hospital Diabetes and Nutrition Education. “The right meal plan is 50 percent of the equation. It should be a plan that is tailored to a person’s daily work or school schedule, medical needs and behavior patterns to promote successful and lasting weight loss. Meal planning has to be sensible and sustainable for the long haul or it won’t work,” she adds.
According to local nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, “Beginning a nutrition plan is all about preparation and education. People typically start diets when they are at their tipping point: their clothes are too tight, their weight is higher than ever before, or their energy is too low.” Macdonald, who is the creator of the Venice Nutrition Program and author of New York Times best selling book, Body Confidence, notes the danger in this approach to dieting. “When people become frustrated, they become desperate for immediate results. Many individuals fail because emotions dictate motivation, and they are willing to do anything to progress.” As they begin the plan, they may progress but not fast enough, eventually becoming unmotivated and abandoning the plan.
The key to experiencing weight loss success is to surrender the dieting mindset and replace it with goals based on the effort you can put into your health. “The reality is that with the right plan, all health goals can be achieved—the only unknown is the time frame in which you will achieve them. Everything in life is an ever-evolving process, and your health is no different. Staying present with your goals and evaluating them on a weekly basis keeps your emotions in check and sets you up for success,” says Macdonald.
2) Make Exercise a Priority
If making healthy lifestyle changes and establishing a lifetime meal plan makes up 50 percent of weight loss, then a regular exercise regimen makes up the other half. “It is virtually impossible to maintain long-term weight loss without regular physical activity. The goal should be at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week. This is a minimum goal—strive for an hour of activity, if possible,” Giles comments.
According to David J. Wyatt, MD, owner of WeightLossMD in Vinings, “I caution patients about exercise routines that are too ambitious. I look at a person's baseline activity and try to alter it somewhat. That way, the change is attainable and maintainable in the long run. It is important to use the ‘muscle confusion’ approach and incorporate various exercises into your routine, including interval training, strength training, aerobics classes, dance, swimming, etc. Ultimately, you should enjoy your workout.”
3) Keep a Food Journal
“Journal writing can be powerful and should include diet and exercise habits,” says Cris Hartley, RD, LD, CDE, manager of the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center at Gwinnett Medical Center. A daily food diary boosts awareness, improves self-control and keeps you accountable. By recording your food intake and workouts on a daily basis, you will begin to notice patterns in your eating habits and exercise routine. A daily journal serves as a great motivator for sticking to the plan. “The most effective weight loss methods include implementing strategies for changing behaviors and habits, maintaining a positive attitude and finding motivational factors along the way,” says Hartley.
If keeping an actual journal is inconvenient for you, there are several phone applications and websites that help you keep track of your daily food intake. MyNetDiary and MyFitnessPal are convenient mobile applications, and Weight Watchers offers useful online tools. Also, the American Dietetic Association provides a wealth of sound, evidence-based advice at www.eatright.org.
4) Ask for Help When Needed
According to Carlos Jordan, certified super trainer and owner of Ultimate Bodies by Carlos, “One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight is giving up their current eating habits cold-turkey and starting a rigid, usually unhealthy diet in its place.” Jordan suggests consulting a professional if you are serious about changing your lifestyle. Nutritionists and certified personal trainers are knowledgeable in their respective fields, and can determine the best plan for you.
“Each approach to weight loss is different,” says Hartley. “To provide further support and develop a map, the Gwinnett Medical Center offers a program called Diet by Design, which is a personalized, flexible approach to weight management. One of our registered dietitians acts as a personal coach, and will design a plan tailored to suit your lifestyle.”
Meena Kakarala, MD, a board certified internist at Piedmont Physicians Group, emphasizes the benefit of a supervised dietary plan (like Weight Watchers) that educates chronically overweight individuals in regards to healthy food choices, portion control and calorie content of the different food categories. “A good nutritionist/dietitian or physician can also do this to a more limited degree. Sure, taking a weight loss pill (be it over-the-counter or prescription) is easy, but in my opinion, it is not sustainable or advisable in the long run and does nothing to educate the person about healthy choices over the course of his or her life,” she says.
5) Set Reasonable Goals
“Oftentimes, people make too many changes too quickly. They set short-term goals for weight loss that are not realistic for improving health. Some fasting and starvation type diets can peel off pounds, but most of the weight that is lost is only water loss, which comes back as fast as it was lost,” says Ashley Ritchie, RD, LD, community nutrition education specialist and culinary specialist at Good Measure Meals.
While short-term goals may serve as motivating factors to stay the course, they should support the long-term goal. Remember, healthy weight loss will not occur overnight. “The advice I always give people who are trying to lose weight is they don’t have to make enormous changes to their lives. If they can make two or three diet-related changes and do them consistently, they will experience success. Most people try to change too many things at once and end up doing none of them often enough to make a difference,” says Darren Triplett, MS, Senior Health Partner at Emory/Georgia Tech Center for Health Discovery and Well Being. Come up with a sensible plan and stick to it.
“Weight loss is not a quick process. Set reasonable time frames for losing weight. Prepare yourself up front for a slow, steady progression of 0.25 to two pounds per week. You may need to lose 30 pounds, but break it into smaller goals like five to six pounds per month until you reach your goal. Also, set realistic weight goals to minimize disappointment. If you haven’t been a size four since your wedding day 30 years ago, chances are it’s unrealistic,” notes Giles.
6) Allow Yourself to Cheat
Do not to deprive yourself of your favorite foods. When reviewing your food journal, use common sense to determine when it is time to treat yourself. If you have spare calories on a given day and want to indulge in a sweet treat, go for it.
Keeping yourself from enjoying your favorite foods only sets you up for failure in the future. “Allow yourself two ‘cheat meals’ a week. If you crave something, allow yourself to go ahead and eat whatever you want in moderation,” advises Jordan.
7) Research How It Works
Since many people want a quick fix to weight loss, they often fail to research how the body actually sheds pounds. According to Gale Hadaway, a certified health and wellness coach and president of Her Health Matters, LLC, “It is basic calories-in and calories-out. We have to use what we take in; if we don’t, then we store the calories as fat. For example, if a person eats a bagel for breakfast, the carbohydrates cause a spike in blood glucose. In response, our pancreas releases insulin, and the insulin will put the glucose in fat cells for storage. The blood sugar, or glucose, then drops, and we become hungry for a high-carb fix. This cycle encourages overeating and weight gain, and eventually causes health problems.”
Macdonald’s solution to healthy weight loss stresses the importance of blood sugar stabilization. “Rather than using nutrition to lose weight, nutrition should be used to create internal hormonal balance in your body. This is accomplished by stabilizing your blood sugar—there are three core principles to stabilizing your blood sugar: eat every three to four hours (five to six meals a day, within an hour upon waking and within an hour of going to sleep); eat a balanced combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates per meal; and eat the optimal amount of calories per meal (not per day),” he says.
He continues, “By following these core principles, your blood sugar will remain stable and your body will be in balance. This balance ignites your metabolism and triggers the release of your stored body fat, which then gets burned in your muscle for energy. Most important, stable blood sugar protects your muscle mass, which directly affects the speed of your metabolism.” Macdonald says this new mindset will provide you with the tools to permanently reprogram your metabolism and achieve all your health goals.
8) Know Your Medical History
“While most people that struggle to lose weight are relatively inactive and consume excessive food portions, a person’s medical history can also affect his or her ability to lose weight,” says Kakarala. If you know you have family members who are prone to weight gain due to certain health conditions, it doesn’t hurt to get yourself checked out. Also, if you suffer from thyroid disease, diabetes, arthritis or any other medical condition, consult your physician before making significant lifestyle changes. Know your limits!
9) Fill Up on Smart Foods
The key to losing weight the right way is… eat! In order to keep your metabolism operating the way it should, you must provide it with food to burn. If you go more than three to four hours without eating, you run the risk of binging at your next meal. The trick is to stay satisfied.
“Some people quit because they are constantly hungry. Make sure not to skip meals, and plan snacks when going more than four hours without eating. Make sure meals and snacks pair fiber-focused carbohydrates with lean protein to give you energy and prevent hunger. Don’t just eat an apple and expect to be satisfied until dinner; add a handful of nuts to that apple for staying power,” notes Giles.
Try eating smart foods such as fruit or raw vegetables as a snack, almonds before lunch, and a salad or cup of soup before dinner. If you have a sweet tooth, layer fruit at the bottom of a scoop of light ice cream or yogurt. This not only helps you feel more satisfied, but also shaves off calories. Bottom line: if you’re hungry, eat. Just make sure you eat the right foods.
10) Don’t Give Up
“Small changes lead to big results,” says Wyatt. “The scale is only a tool—be sure to look for other signs of improvement, like looser clothing, decreased body fat and more energy. Even if you’re not losing as much as you had planned in a month’s time, focus on the positive changes and keep at it.” If you find yourself feeling down, find an exercise buddy who will keep you focused. Above all, keep a positive outlook and remember that all your hard work will pay off!
Atlanta Wellness & Aesthetics, (404) 816-0222, www.atlantawellnessandaesthetics.com
Emory/Georgia Tech Center for Health Discovery and Well Being, (404) 686-6190, www.predictivehealth.emory.edu/chd
Good Measure Meals, (404) 815-7695, www.goodmeasuremeals.com
Gwinnett Medical Center, (678) 312-4321, www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org
Her Health Matters, LLC – www.herhealthmatters.tsfl.com
Mark Macdonald, www.venicenutrition.com
Natural Medical Solutions, (770) 674-6311, www.natmedsol.com
Northside Hospital, (404) 851-8000, www.northside.com
Piedmont Physicians Group, (678) 797-8201, www.piedmontphysicians.org
Suddenly Slimmer, (678) 206-2100, (678) 381-2100, www.suddenlyslimmeratlanta.com
Ultimate Bodies by Carlos, www.ultimatebodiesbycarlos.com
WeightLossMD, Vinings, (678) 293-6627, www.eweightlossmd.com
The HCG Diet
The HCG diet is a weight-loss program based on human chorionic gonadotrophin, a hormone that is naturally secreted during pregnancy to ensure enough nutrition for the fetus to grow. When the body is flowing with HCG, it mobilizes the abnormal deposits of fat for nutrition during times of starvation or very low-calorie diets. As these fat stores are being utilized, the weight drops rapidly.
Dr. Sarah Ghayouri weighs in:
“It is not uncommon to lose 0.5 to one pound a day on the HCG diet. The nutrients released into your blood give you energy and reduce your appetite naturally,” says Dr. Ghayouri, medical director at Atlanta Wellness & Aesthetics. “Considering all the risks associated with obesity and the side effect of appetite suppressants and other diet pills, HCG is relatively safe.”
The program requires medical supervision to ensure the safety of patients. “More than 95 percent of my patients lose weight on this program. The weight loss is variable depending on how compliant they are with the diet. Overall, people feel better emotionally and physically on HCG and are able to complete the diet.”
Dr. Gail Ravello weighs in:
“What makes HCG different from dieting alone is that many restrictive diets can trigger a “starvation mode”, putting the brakes on your metabolism and actually causing fat storage. HCG combined with a reduced calorie meal plan (500 calories per day) stimulates the body to mobilize stored fat, making it available to your body as an energy source.” explains Dr. Ravello of Natural Medical Solutions. “This means fat is burned instead of muscle, without the typical hunger pains one would experience with such a low calorie program. It is common that HCG dieters find that even very small servings, to be completely satisfying.” This program helps reset your caloric needs, your metabolism and fat regulations system. It's important to continue to be aware of the foods you take into your body and your caloric intake. After completing the HCG diet, you should find your appetite, eating behavior, and of course, your body has changed.
There are many different types of body wraps. Generally, a body wrap involves applying a solution, lotion or gel to the body, and then wrapping the body in blankets, towels or bandages for a period of time in order to achieve weight loss or inch loss, as well as moisturize and tone the skin. A body wrap removes toxins from your body and replaces them with nutrients the body needs. This is done through the skin—the most porous part of the body.
“Suddenly Slimmer is Atlanta’s exclusive provider of The Suddenly Slender Body Wrap system. Unlike most spas and salons, we focus on providing a wide range of high quality, healthy mineral body wraps. We are so confident about our wraps that we offer the highest inch-loss guarantee in Atlanta: 10–30 inches or your next wrap is free. You will notice a significant improvement in cellulite, stretch marks and loose skin,” says Julie Tracey, co-owner of Suddenly Slimmer.
As long as you keep your weight the same and return for the recommended ‘maintenance wrap’ once every three to four months to draw out accumulated toxins, Suddenly Slimmer promises permanent inch loss. “You will not sweat with our wraps, and you can drink as much water as you wish before and after the wrap,” notes Tracey.
Whether you’re gearing up for bathing suit season or attending a special event, a body wrap will give you a boost of confidence. What’s more, the anti-aging properties of body wraps are ideal for rejuvenating dry, leathery and sun-damaged skin, and for reducing stretch marks, double chins and wrinkles.
Weight Loss Success Story
Atlanta couple, Hillary and Bruce, lost a total of 185 pounds within one year after following a low-fat vegan diet. They participated in Dr. Neal D. Barnard’s GEICO intervention study and are also featured in his new book, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart.
How many new diets or treatments did you try in your journey to lose weight?
We had been trying to lose weight for years, mostly through making small changes and exercising a bit more, but portion-restrictive diets never worked. We knew that if we didn’t get healthy soon, we would start to have major health problems.
Tell us more about the GEICO study and why you decided to participate?
Nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., led a 22-week clinical research study at GEICO headquarters to help employees lose weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce absenteeism. We wanted to give it a try because there was science behind it and nutrition experts available to tell us what to do. We were provided with low-fat vegan meals, cooking demonstrations, and educational sessions led by doctors and dietitians. As the weeks went by the pounds were dropping like crazy. Eight to ten weeks into the study we had already dropped (30) pounds. We were really excited because this was something that was working better than anything we had tried before. We knew we were on the right path because it didn’t feel like a challenge anymore.
How did doing the diet/exercise program together help you to
stick with it and stay motivated?
Well, in the beginning, it was really helpful to completely clear the house of all food that we shouldn’t be eating, so being in a 100% vegan household helped, and splitting the cooking and grocery shopping responsibilities was also really useful. As we started to see results, it was great to have a partner that was also seeing results as even more positive feedback.
What is the best piece of advice you can give someone who wants to lose weight?
1. Really don’t use any oil—we cut it out completely, and I think this really helped get us down to the low-fat levels and lose weight. We stopped using oil at all in recipes or for cooking—there are so many great alternatives (vegetable broth, apple sauce, water, cooking spray) for different uses of oil, and it really doesn’t affect the flavor of the food.
2. Use technology—there are so many great resources, including mobile apps that help track food and exercise and even tell you nutritional information and ingredients at restaurants, as well as an unlimited supply of healthy, vegan recipes for your favorite foods (my favorites are eggplant parmesan and macaroni and cheese, both of which I can make with little or no fat and are really tasty). The Internet is also a great place to learn about and buy healthier or vegan products.
Celebrity fitness and health expert and star of CW network program Shedding for the Wedding, Jennifer Cohen weighs in on getting healthy and keeping the "lb’s" at bay.
With so many diet fads out there, how do you know which one is right for you (if any)?
I don't believe in any fad diet. I believe in simply eating as clean as possible. That means no processed foods. Try to eat everything in its natural form and I promise you will see those extra pounds fall off. A great trick with this is to only shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh items are sold.
What is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just starting to work out?
Best piece of advice would be to pick something you enjoy or hate the least, that way you will do it. Summer is around the corner so you might have always had an interest in taking up tennis lessons, or joining a walking/running club. I always tell people to also ease their way into any activity as opposed to doing too much too soon.
What are some common concerns you get from people who are trying to lose weight?
A common concern is that people don't think they have the time. People should schedule their workout like any other appointment in their day. You and your health should be just as big a priority as anything else you "need" to do.
What is the best way to keep yourself motivated to lose those extra pounds?
A great way to keep yourself motivated is to find a workout buddy. That way you both can motivate each other and have some fun along the way. Another way is to set realistic goals for yourself that you can obtain. The best motivator is seeing progress, so if you have small wins it helps you keep going!
Losing weight is a combination of good diet and exercise - how do you find the right balance?
You should allow yourself one cheat day a week to eat what you like and the rest of the week try and be as consistent as possible. There are plenty of ways to eat healthy and also feel like you’re treating yourself.