Ten Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ryan L. Buhite
  • 97th Medical Group
It's that time of year again, the time where countless people make commitments to lose weight for the New Year. Unfortunately, most people either fail to make any changes or they make drastic unsustainable changes which make obtaining permanent weight loss unlikely. People who are truly motivated for change can make meaningful and sustainable lifestyle changes that can lead to weight loss. Always consult with your physician before making any significant change in your diet or exercise.

Motivation is the internal drive that is necessary for you to actually make these changes. While there are no quick fixes for increasing motivation, here are a few tips that may be helpful. First, write a list of all the positive reasons to change your behavior and all the negative consequences for not changing your behavior. Next, stick your list on the fridge or anywhere else that is highly visible so you can frequently review it. You can also incorporate visual aids in this process such as posting a picture of yourself when you were a more desirable weight. A third step is to get others involved by telling them of your plan and asking for support. Whether their support is going to the gym with you or just cheering you on, you're more likely to do it with their help.

Writing goals is also crucial to success, as those who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them. The key to goal setting is to use specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and trackable principles to first establish long term goals (one to two years), and then develop short-term goals (three to four months) that will help you meet the long term goals. Be prepared to revise and establish new goals, as you may find some unexpected bumps in the road along the way.

Although both diet and exercise are important in weight loss, the emphasis should be on diet. It takes a 155-pound person an hour to burn 560 calories by running and a Big Mac has 540 calories. It is much easier and realistic to reduce your intake than it is to try and exercise the extra calories away. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. If you consume 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than you use, every day of the week, you will lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week. This is the essence of healthy and sustainable weight loss. Although losing one pound per week may not seem like a lot, it adds up to 52 pounds a year. There are numerous books and Web site that can provide you with an estimate of the calories you use each day and how many calories different types of food contain.

Below are behavioral strategies that you can incorporate into your weight loss plan: 

1. Keep a food diary that lists what foods you ate, when, and how you felt at the time. This will help in understanding what triggers may lead to overeating. Research shows that just keeping a food diary alone leads to weight loss so every person trying to lose weight should do this. 

2. Eat small and frequent meals instead of big and infrequent meals. 

3. Plan and prepare different healthy meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. Be daring and experiment with new and healthy recipes. 

4. Designate one place as an eating area (dining room or kitchen) and do not eat in any other area of your residence or eat while doing any activity. This includes watching TV. 

5. Slow down: Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing; put your knife and fork down between bites. It takes 20-30 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you're full. 

6. Keep food out of sight and store food in non transparent containers. 

7. Before snacking, take a drink of water, do some physical activity, and wait 30 minutes. If you're still hungry, have a snack of fruits or vegetables. 

8. Eat out less often. Many restaurant foods are high in calories and contain large portions. Do not super size yourself. 

9. Recognize "slip-ups" in your diet and problem solve how you can prevent them. 

10. Weigh yourself weekly and graph your progress.

Your weight loss may also be aided by seeing a professional. For active-duty servicemembers on Altus AFB, The Health and Wellness Center can offer nutrition counseling, fitness assessments, exercise prescriptions, body composition assessments and enrollment into the healthy living program. Anyone with TRICARE health benefits can seek behaviorally based weight loss guidance at the Altus Mental Health Clinic or ask your Primary Care Manager about the Behavioral Health Optimization Program. Weight loss is a difficult goal to accomplish, but by making smart changes in your diet and lifestyle, you can live a healthier and longer life.