Lose weight now, gain future years on your life

Lose weight now, gain future years on your life

Parkland clinicians offer tips for reaching your healthiest weight

Every year there are new food gurus, fad diets, cookbooks and theories that claim to offer the “best” way to lose extra pounds and reach a healthy weight. U.S. News & World Report even created a ranking for “Best Diets.” This year after evaluating 41 of the most popular diets, their panel awarded the gold to the Mediterranean Diet, a heart-healthy eating plan emphasizing primarily plant-based foods, whole grains, olive oil and fish.

As part of our national obsession with weight loss, 7 days are dedicated each January as National Healthy Weight Week, coming up this January 19-26 to raise awareness about healthy lifelong eating habits. According to Statista.com, 45 percent of Americans surveyed said their New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to lose weight or get in shape. But a study by the University of Scranton found that just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals.

“The reason it’s so important to attain and maintain a healthy weight,” according to Manisha Raja, MD, a primary care physician at Parkland Health & Hospital System, “is to increase our lifespan and enjoy a better quality of life. There are a whole slew of health problems associated with being overweight, including heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, liver and gall bladder disease, sleep apnea and several cancers.”

But when it comes to weight, is it actually ‘healthy’ to focus on a number on the scale rather than other health indicators? “Instead of focusing on your weight, check your BMI (body mass index). It can be a better indicator of healthy weight,” Dr. Raja advised. (Use the US National Institute of Health calculator to determine your body mass index.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 indicates a healthy weight for an adult age 20 or older. A BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity. “Some studies have shown that patients with a BMI of 40-45 or above have a life span 10 years shorter than those with a normal BMI,” Dr. Raja said.

If you do need to lose weight, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise plan, Dr. Raja said.

Dietitians and physicians agree that achieving a healthy weight (and maintaining it) is not just about what foods you choose. It’s about many other factors including how much and when you eat, exercise, sleep, your stress level and other health and lifestyle factors.

Sharon Cox, RD, who conducts weight-loss classes for patients at Parkland’s Bluitt-Flowers Health Center, recommends a slow and steady approach. “Aim for losing one to two pounds a week through a combination of exercise and sensible changes in diet,” Cox said. “If you lose too fast, you won’t be able to sustain and keep it off.”

Maggy Doherty, RD, who works with inpatients at Parkland Memorial Hospital, recommends that people “stick to the basics – complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, healthy fat, and lots of fruits and veggies. Eat healthy on weekdays, then relax a little on the weekends. Find the nutrition combination that works best for you.”

Marisa Aguillon, RD, a diabetes educator at Parkland, tells her patients, “It’s best to work on making lifestyle changes versus dieting. Think overall about your long-term health, not instant gratification. We get lost trying to make too many changes at once. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) goals.”

Goal-setting begins with knowing your reason for weight change. “Is it for better health, a smaller dress size, to have more energy? The purpose is what gets you through it,” Cox said.

“Keep your goal in front of you to remind you of what you are trying to accomplish,” Aguillon said. “Write it down and put it in places you’ll see throughout the day or team up with someone who will hold you accountable.”

Doherty said we’re more likely to succeed by “making small and reachable monthly goals, instead of a monstrous yearly goal. For example, eliminate the salt shaker in January; cut out added sugar in coffee in February; swap processed chips for raw vegetables in March, and so on. When you reach your goal, reward yourself with something small to keep you motivated, like a nice dinner out, massage or manicure.”

Other tips from Parkland dietitians:
• Eat smaller portions.
• Burn calories – find an exercise you enjoy do it 5 days a week for 30 to 45 minutes.
• Lift weights at least two times a week to preserve muscle mass.
• Eat 3 planned meals and 1 to 2 healthful snacks per day.
• Drink more water.
• Choose fresh lean protein and put more vegetables on your plate.
• Weigh weekly, chart your progress and reward yourself for reaching goals.
• Be prepared for relapse, so have a plan to get back on track soon.
• Get 7 to 8 hours sleep each night.
• Manage stress with exercise, mediation, yoga or other positive methods of stress-relief.
• Have a positive support system in place to keep you focused and motivated to maintain weight loss.

For more information about Parkland, please visit www.parklandhospital.com