With the new year comes New Year’s resolutions. One of the more common resolutions is to lose weight. We have all heard it before: “I am starting my diet on Monday, after one more piece of dessert.” When Monday rolls around, we jump feet first into our new popular diet. There are countless diets to choose from, and it seems that every book, website, and commercial on the subject offers the one sure fire path to weight loss success. Of course we all know that true success will only come from a well-balanced, and more importantly, a consistent effort. It takes reduced calorie consumption, exercise, and consistency.
When it comes to eating, reduced calorie consumption is paramount. Your goal should be to eat 500 fewer calories per day than what you burn. For example, a sedentary woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall burns about 1,700 calories each day. Her goal would be to eat 1,200 calories per day to lose weight. On this diet, she would average about 1 pound of weight loss per week. The composition of the food does not matter as much as the total number of calories consumed by the end of the day. Studies show that weight loss is not dependent so much on whether you are on a low fat diet or a low carb diet. What matters is that you meet your total calorie deficit.
In addition to dieting, exercise is also critical to losing weight. You want to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes at a time, 4-5 days per week. Walking is a great form of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends walking at a “non-conversational” pace. If you can hold a comfortable conversation during exercise, you may need to pick up the intensity. Exercising increases your metabolism and enhances weight loss. It also helps you lock in what you have lost so you don’t risk yo-yo weight gain.
Of all the solutions for weight loss, consistency is the most important. It is the single most important difference between success and failure. Most people can go on a diet or go to the gym for a month or two. But they typically lose their motivation and return to old habits of a sedentary lifestyle, eating unhealthy food, or eating large portions. They often don’t realize that if they had just stuck with their plan, success was right around the corner. It may take months to years to reach your weight loss goals, depending on how much you need to lose.
For people who need to lose more weight, bariatric surgery may be a helpful tool that offers that much needed consistency. Let’s go back to our average 5 feet 4 inch tall woman. If she weighs over 230 pounds, she is more than 100 pounds over weight. On a 1,200 calorie per day diet, it would take her a year to lose 50 pounds. Bariatric surgery would allow her to stick to her diet for that year without hunger sabotaging her efforts. It would also help her maintain a healthier weight for years to come.
No matter what path you chose to reach your weight loss goal, it must have the 3 fundamentals: a low calorie diet, exercise, and consistency. May you have a prosperous and healthy New Year!
Carl Lowe, Jr., MD