Bad strategy No. 1: I’ll lose weight at the gym.Working out is good for your health and can help to maintain your weight. But exercise alone is not very effective in shedding pounds. To lose weight, you will need to eat fewer calories.
Bad Strategy No. 2: I’ll have to dramatically change my diet. A radical change is not necessary. A more effective strategy is to simply cut back a few hundred calories a day. When going to a restaurant, for example, eat an apple before dinner to dull your appetite, then skip the bread before the main dish arrives. Eat smaller portions and ask for a to-go container.
Bad Strategy No. 3: Weight-loss supplements will make it easier. Supplements burn more muscle than fat. And when you stop taking them, you will gain back more fat than muscle, making you worse off than if you had never taken them in the first place.
Bad Strategy No. 4: I want to be like the Biggest Loser and shed pounds quickly.A more realistic — and healthy — strategy is to try to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you cut back 500 calories a day (such as a bagel and cream cheese), you will lose a pound a week. If you cut back just 250 calories a day (one candy bar) you will lose 2 pounds a month. “This will provide the slow-and-steady type of weight loss that will be long-lasting,” Dr. Michelfelder said.
Bad Strategy No. 5: I give up. I’ll never get down to a normal weight, so why even try? Do not despair if you do not get down to a trim, normal weight (defined as a body mass index of between 18.5 and 24.9). If you are overweight or obese, losing 10 percent of your body weight will improve your appearance and have significant health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of diabetes. Even losing as little as 5 pounds will be good for your joints.
As a family physician, Dr. Michelfelder fields a lot of questions every January from patients who have resolved to lose weight. He advises them to not try to go it alone. “When you tell other people you are trying to lose weight, they will give you their support, and stop shoving cake and candy your way,” Dr. Michelfelder said.
Structured programs, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, can be effective. And attending such programs in person tends to be more effective than participating only online, Dr. Michelfelder said.
“For the New Year, most of us should add some weight loss to our resolutions,” Dr. Michelfelder said. “Obesity is now so common in the United States that it causes more disease and years of life lost than smoking.”
Dr. Michelfelder is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.