It’s one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also one of the hardest to master. That’s because weight loss needs to be a lifestyle change and not a short-term solution. Mary Dutcher, CDE, MS, RD, LD, UnityPoint Health, suggests avoiding weight loss gimmicks and making smart, manageable changes to get back on track instead.
Healthy Weight Loss
“Any diet or product that claims to produce terrific weight loss results, without eating healthy and exercising, is a scam,” Dutcher says. “If the product sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. The quick-fix products that promise miraculous weight loss results are definitely out there, but they can't be considered reliable for long-term weight loss.”
Dutcher says the best sustainable diet for adults and kids is built on lean protein, plenty of vegetables and fresh fruits. She also suggests whole grains or healthy starches, like brown rice or baked sweet potatoes, in moderation.
“When we gain weight, it’s typically is a gradual process. The same is true in reversing the weight gain, patience is required,” Dutcher says.
A healthy weight loss is usually considered one to two pounds per week, and men tend to lose weight faster than females.
“Remember, this is a journey to become a healthier person. It is not a diet that you are on for a few months, and then, you go back to your old eating habits. You really have to make a decision that you are going to work on becoming a healthier person for the long term,” Dutcher says.
Weight Loss Tips that Work
For healthy weight loss, Dutcher suggests making small improvements to your everyday routine to be successful.
- Cut back on portions
- Add more vegetables
- Make exercise a habit
- Drink eight cups of water per day
- Avoid high-calorie drinks, like soda, juices, fancy coffee drinks and energy drinks
- Start a food and/or exercise log to be more conscious of daily intake/activity
- Set specific, measurable goals for a certain amount of time
- Ask for support from family and friends
- Talk to a professional about weight loss goals
“Don’t set goals so high that they're impossible to achieve. If individuals can’t meet the goals, they feel they have failed and beat themselves up emotionally. There will be ups and downs in any journey,” Dutcher says.
Dutcher believes protein supplements, like Slim Fast or Premier Protein Shakes with high protein and low sugar, can have their place as a meal replacement. She says it’s better to drink a supplement than skip a meal entirely, which generally leads to unhealthy snacking or overeating at the next meal.
Weight Loss Tips that Don’t Work
Weight Loss Supplements
Besides protein supplements, Dutcher says it’s not a good idea to try other weight loss supplements. People need carbohydrates, protein and fats, as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals and other nutritious substances from real food. Dutcher adds it’s impossible for a bottled supplement to replace a healthy diet of a variety of different foods.
“Overall, I’m not a fan of having people spend a lot of money on supplements that promise to reduce cellulite, trim fat in specific body areas or to build muscle. Typically, supplements are a weight loss gimmick that may reduce water weight quickly, but not permanently,” Dutcher says.
Diuretics or Laxatives
She also doesn’t recommend using diuretics or laxatives to lose weight. Diuretics produce temporary weight loss, due to water wasting. Quick weight loss for diuretic use does not lead to long-term weight loss. She says laxatives can be habit forming and are not recommended, unless prescribed by your provider.
“Eating a high-fiber diet is really nature’s laxative and can help you feel more full after eating, which could result in weight loss,” Dutcher says.
Exercise is the only way to change the way your body looks in a healthy and more permanent way. Dutcher says cellulite is not going to disappear by using body wraps.
Many people try to kick start their weight loss efforts with a cleanse. Janelle Hodovic, MPH, RD/LD, UnityPoint Health, says there are several different options on the market, including skinny tea, flat belly tea, colon cleanse, liver cleanse, master cleanse, 10-day green smoothie cleanse, juice cleanse and detox cleanse. She cites a 2014 study that says there are no scientific studies done on the effectiveness of commercial detox diets for losing weight. In fact, research shows cleanses increase stress, elevate cortisol and stimulate appetite, making it harder to lose weight.
“If your goal is to drop a few pounds, a cleanse might be successful, but you’ll most likely gain it back,” Hodovic says.
Health risks associated with detox diets are severe calorie restriction and inadequate nutrition. Studies show this can lead to protein and vitamin shortage, anemia, low blood sugar, irregular heartbeat, loss of muscle mass, electrolyte imbalance, lactic acidosis and even death. Hodovic says the lack of regulation in the detox industry is also concerning.
Cutting Out Food Groups
Eliminating healthy foods from a diet is also not a healthy choice. These types of diets are not sustainable long term. Dutcher says she’s seen people lose weight on the Adkins Diet, but they usually can’t continue on that weight loss program. When they start eating carbohydrates again, they usually gain the weight back.
What To Do If You’re Struggling to Lose Weight
If you try to change your exercise and diet and aren't seeing changes, it is time to make an appointment with your primary care provider. Dutcher says there might be an underlying physical cause inhibiting weight loss, or it might be time for a thyroid check. People trying to lose weight could also check into getting Basal Metabolic Rate testing. It gives specific, individual calorie goals for weight loss. This test helps determine if someone has cut calories too low, which can make it difficult to lose weight. Providers can also help determine if patients should try weight loss medication.
“Under the careful supervision of weight loss professionals, these medications have proven to assist people who otherwise haven't been unable to successfully lose weight and keep it off,” Dutcher says.
A Final Healthy Weight Loss Tip
“If you stop eating healthy and exercising for a period of time, get back on track by making smaller, more manageable changes in your routine. For example: eat two pieces of fruit per day and two servings of vegetables per day, and exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week. There may be some weeks you can meet those goals and other weeks when you do not meet all of your goals. Don’t give up, next week will be better.”
Dutcher continues by encouraging everyone to celebrate small improvements in their lives. Ask yourself, “Am I eating more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins than I was two months ago? Am I more physically active than I was two months ago?” If so, that’s progress, and you can build on your successes by adding more healthy goals each month.
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