Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sensible Strategies for Weight Management

Weight management grabs more attention in advertisements and sells more books than almost any subject, with the side panels of websites, junk mail and TV shows all touting products and books to help people lose weight. A few of these strategies actually do work — but not for long.

Research shows us that with many commercial weight loss programs, there usually is moderate weight loss after about six months to a year. But after one to two years, many of these dieters return to their previous weight.

However, it's not all about "weight." It actually is because of a lack of thorough "management" that so many people get stuck in the fad weight loss wheel. Healthy weight loss is defined as one to two pounds per week, so first, set a goal of losing four to eight pounds per month, which is both a healthy and achievable goal.

As a physician, my first choice is a diet plan that centers on low-carbohydrate, low-fat and low-calorie options such as the Mediterranean diet. By incorporating healthy fats, more fruits and vegetables and thereby more fiber, not only can you better manage your weight, but you also will feel better.

A second foundation for weight management is an active lifestyle. The standard recommendation is 150 minutes of exercise per week. You may gain a little weight when you start exercising as you add muscle mass, but this reverses as you burn those calories and increase your metabolism.

A third foundation is stress management, which is perhaps the most overlooked. Stress contributes to weight gain by increased cortisol release, and also is a main culprit in people eating unhealthy foods and dropping exercise out of their daily routine. Evaluate stresses in your life: Are you trying to do too much each day? Are you taking time to relax and feel grounded? Do you feel negative about many aspects of your life? Consider meditation or yoga as a means to reduce your stress, or just simplify your life by clearing clutter in your home.

Anyone who is struggling with weight management should apply these changes to their lifestyle gradually. Remember that you are not alone and having a strong support network while making these changes is vital. Talk to friends and family about making changes with you, and find guidance from your physician or dietitian to clarify questions and to set goals.

Brendan Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Call 206-834-4100 to schedule an appointment.

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