Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

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by Judy Crowley, RD, LD
Certified Diabetes Educator
SETON Healthcare Network

There are no magic answers to weight loss. There is only common sense. Why are thin people thin and still eat a lot of food? Just think about it. If you don't eat, you starve your body, and your body has a built-in survival mechanism that won't let you kill yourself. If you don't provide enough energy in the form of food, then your body will go into starvation mode and conserve or save energy. Little is being provided and the body, especially if active and burning energy, will go into hibernation and keep your systems going on very little energy. A lifetime of eating only a little makes your body very fuel efficient, so you won't burn many calories.

Be realistic. How long did it take you to gain 10, 20, or 30 pounds? Weeks, months or years? It will take just as long to lose the weight. Usually you can only safely lose one to two pounds a week, four to eight pounds per month. Are you willing to invest the time and effort to do it right? Only when the answer is yes can you start to make lifestyle changes.

You must make some realistic changes every day if you want to lose weight and keep it off. DON'T START A DIET. Take one step at a time to make healthy choices and do it forever. There is nothing you can't eat. You just don't eat some foods very often and only in small quantities. Take charge. Don't let food control you.

Make a difference with simple changes. Eat healthy, use the basic food groups daily, use variety, use only foods in moderation and nothing to excess. You need at least six servings of bread, potato, cereal, pasta and crackers daily and four to six servings of fruits and vegetables and two dairy products and two servings of meat, fish, poultry or dried beans. Remember that a serving is the size of your fist. When you have eaten all of this in a day, there is little need for extras like nuts, avocadoes, bacon, mayonnaise, cookies, cake and ice cream because you have filled up on all the "good stuff" first.

Never skip meals. Eat regular meals and/or snacks daily. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gets the body's metabolism going. You will feel hungry because it is working and more calories are being burned throughout the day. You can eat more food because you are burning more energy. The problem with fasting all day is that you set yourself up for food cravings after days or weeks of limited eating. All kinds of high-fat, high-sugar foods become irresistible because you are starving and your body is fighting to get needed energy. Don't eat less than 1200 calories a day, especially when you are exercising regularly.

Exercise! There is no excuse for not exercising. You do whatever you can for as long as you can. Work regular exercise into your daily schedule. If it is important, you will make time. Climb the stairs, park at the back of the parking lot, do sitting exercises when you can't walk, make a path inside or go to the mall when it rains. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do something. Exercise makes you feel better and increases your metabolism so you can enjoy more of the foods you like.

Eat a variety of foods, including low-fat, complex carbohydrates with high fiber. Nutrient dense foods are the best. These include baked corn chips with fresh salsa or vegetable spread made with yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, fruited yogurt, skim milk, low-fat cheese, baked potato with chives, low-fat cottage cheese and vegetables, egg whites, low-fat pasta and wild rice, whole grain breads, cereals and crackers, low-fat popcorn, broiled or grilled fish and poultry without the skin, black beans and rice, split-pea soup and lentil with vegetable salad.

Don't give up on your favorite foods. Just don't eat them too often and eat smaller portions. Don't worry about your weight. If you live a healthy lifestyle and eat regular meals with good healthy foods and good variety, the weight will come off and you will feel better. Being an active and very fit is a better guide to good health than just a person's weight.

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