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How to Maintain a Healthy Weight

scale with measuring tape on it

We all make new plans for the New Year. For many of us that means a new set of goals and resolutions, and a typical new year’s resolution is DIETING. The past year has been full of new dieting methods: the ketogenic, alkali and paleo diets, juicing, carb cycling and intermittent fasting are just some popular ways of losing extra pounds. The question is: How effective are they?

Fad diets spread like wildfire and burn out quickly. It’s not that they don’t work at helping people lose weight but they are really hard to follow long term. You usually lose weight initially only to gain it back again. What makes these fads even worse are that several of them have adverse effects on your overall health like dehydration, fatigue, muscle loss, and nutrition deficiencies. Weight is one piece of your healthy body’s puzzle but your heart and mind are equally important to the whole health picture.

Why don’t fad diets work?

Most fad diets include significant and fast changes in your eating habits that are very hard to maintain for long and restrictive. You are only allowed to eat certain foods: no gluten, no carbs, fat is evil, etc. Cutting whole food groups from your diet can cause a nutrition imbalance and calorie restriction can slow your metabolism by putting your body into a survival mode. Your body thinks it is starving so it slows down your metabolic rate to conserve energy and prevent weight loss.
 

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How can you tell if a diet is a fad?

Spotting a fad diet is simple. Advertisements that promise amazing results with little effort are substantial red flags, especially with any of the following:

  • claims to lose weight without exercise
  • promises to lose an unrealistic amount of weight
  • the need to purchase certain products from a particular store

If any of these align with an advertised dieting method, do not be fooled. Fast weight loss methods are unhealthy and do not last.

How can I achieve a healthy weight?

Losing weight and being able to maintain a long term weight goal begins with small changes in your lifestyle and eating habits.

Eat a balanced diet of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. A healthy meal is balanced with whole or minimally processed foods from each group.

cartoon plate with divisions for fruits, grains, protein and vegetables

Avoid or limit sugary foods and beverages. Drink more water instead. Try flavoring your water with mint leaves and lemon for a tasty alternative.

Cut out junk foods like salty chips and chocolate for snacks. Pack fruit or vegetable sticks to curb your hunger cravings. Instead of cutting calories focus on eating foods with quality nutrition.

Learn to recognize the difference between hunger and appetite. Eat slowly so you can better recognize when you are full. Use smaller plates and dish up regular portions, not super-sized ones.

Include simple exercises in your daily activities. You don’t need to set aside 60 minutes just to work out. If you cannot or do not have time for the gym sprinkle 5 or 10-minute activities that increase your heart rate throughout your day. Avoid elevators; instead, take the stairs. If your destinations are within walking distance, walk or bike instead of driving.

There is no magic pill or get skinny quick formula. Drastic changes in your diet and activity are hard to sustain over your whole life and often lead to increased weight gain after the fad runs its course. Instead, adopt realistic, healthy eating and activity habits that you can build over time for a lifelong healthy weight.

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

 

Curtis Harvie, DNP, FNP-BC, AHN-BC

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