Fad diets always come and go, but lifestyle changes are the most effective when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, some diets do more harm than good in terms of an individual’s overall health. Cutting too many calories, too quickly, can leave people fatigued and weak. Or, following a high-fat diet like the keto diet may negatively impact some individuals.
The best approach, says Dr. Drue Webb, Family Medicine Physician at Pullman Family Medicine, is to discover certain lifestyle habits that are preventing you from reaching your weight loss goals.
“It starts with a conversation with the patient. A lot has to do with the diet they’ve chosen. Some people are better at being consistent with certain diets than others. Usually, when patients have seen other people successful with a diet and they are not, it’s because it’s not the right diet for them,” she notes. “They’re really struggling to be consistent with it; they’re not necessarily doing it as a lifestyle change. Instead, it’s something they are doing to get success quickly. And that’s not the way weight loss happens.”
The Four Pillars of Successful Weight Loss
In some cases, certain genetic predispositions may make it more difficult for people to lose weight. But even then, Dr. Webb believes there are ways to achieve success. “When patients tell me, ‘I’ve tried everything and I can’t lose weight,’ when I talk to them about it, there’s always ways I can find,” she states.
Dr. Webb roots her recommendations in four different pillars. The first is to start by making small, sustainable changes and moving forward from there. Data has very solidly shown that people who take this approach are the best at maintaining changes.
The second is to educate patients that not every calorie is created equally. For example, reducing caloric intake from 2,200 to 1,800 won’t make much of an impact if those 1,800 calories are comprised of junk food or processed food.
“They’re still not going to see the success they want to see, because those calories aren’t the same as you get with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fresh foods,” cautions Dr. Webb. She advises shopping mostly the perimeter of the grocery store, which is where those healthier foods are typically located.
Third, Dr. Webb wants her patients to have goals other than a number on the scale—which can create a sense of failure if the needle isn’t moving in the right direction. “I really recommend people find another goal other than just, ‘I want to weigh 120 pounds’ or get to a desired pant size. If they have a goal of, ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I want to be able to play with my kids without feeling tired,’ those kinds of things tend to be more motivating over the long term and keep people more successful over the long term.”
And finally, Dr. Webb encourages people to be kind to themselves. One of the biggest pitfalls individuals fall into is getting frustrated when they’re not making the progress they want. This can lead to a negative feedback “loop” that isn’t motivating in the least.
“It actually tends to make us give up, fall off the wagon, and that leads to yo-yoing. And the more we yo-yo, the harder it is to lose weight over the long term. So, just be kind. If you have a bad day and eat different than planned, just say, ‘Tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to start over and try to focus on more positive things.’ This is tough for everybody. Everybody struggles with this.”
Losing Weight Takes a Balance of Healthy Eating and Exercise
Exercise is a key component of weight loss, but Dr. Webb wants to remind patients that weight loss won’t occur unless they combine physical activity with healthy eating. “The biggest issue with losing weight is what we eat. Exercise is more about your heart health, your cardiovascular health.”
Ultimately, your goal should be holistic health, because that’s what is going to make you a truly healthier, happier person.
“When you’re looking at making lifestyle changes, don’t just consider the food you are eating. Also look at things that can make you more active, happier, healthier; those are all changes that are going to eventually help in your weight loss. It should be about the right choices throughout the whole spectrum of your lifestyle.”
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