For anyone deciding it’s time to grab onto a diet plan and hang on for dear life, there are plenty of diets out there. But which to choose?
Anything that fits in the “fad” category is probably not a good fit for you. “People think you can do a fad diet (successfully), but that’s not the case,” says Kristina Greene, registered dietitian and diabetic educator at Methodist Hospital in Crown Point, Ind. “I have some patients who have juiced and lost fifty to sixty pounds -- but they gained it all back. A diet of 500 to 600 calories per day cuts out whole food groups, and that’s not sustainable long term.”
And Lori Granich, registered dietitian (RD) with Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer, Ind., cautions, “Eliminating food groups … puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.” Besides, “Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will keep you from being bored.”
So drop the fad notion and go natural. “Losing weight naturally is all about lifestyle changes and sticking to it for the rest of your life,” says Greene. That means, says Granich, “a balanced diet that promotes slow, steady weight loss” -- the kind that stays lost.
How dietitians help
Where to start? Granich explains for a diet tailored to individual needs, a registered dietitian can:
Make you aware of your eating patterns and suggest changes to aid in weight loss;
Identify “calorie creep”: areas of your diet that may be providing more calories than you realize;
Create realistic, attainable goals;
Help you change eating and lifestyle habits.
Design a diet specific to any medical issues.
Be aware the terms “registered dietitian” and “nutritionist” are not interchangeable, says Granich.
“Registered dietitians have met specific academic and professional practice requirements … In some states anyone can refer to themselves as a nutritionist,” with little or no nutrition education or training. You can call your local hospital for a registered dietitian or visit http://www.eatright.org/programs/rdfinder/. If you’ve decided to go it alone or with a structured plan, Jill Kilhefner, RD and certified diabetes educator at Porter Regional Hospital, notes that a recent US News And World Report named the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and Weight Watchers as the highest recommended..
Kilhefner quashes a fond hope: “There are no magic foods. The proper formula for weight loss is simple: calories in, calories out.” From there, she says, educate yourself. If you’re not seeing an RD, utilize the Internet, free hospital support groups, RD’s cooking classes -- any good sources for information on the best food choices and portion sizes. “Don’t put yourself at risk physically nor nutritionally by trying to recreate the wheel.”
As for setting a goal, “I like to have them choose one activity goal and one dietary goal, and be specific and realistic: how many minutes of activity per week; drinking how much more water,” says Greene, who soon will also be a diet counselor at the Valparaiso YWCA. Keep in mind It takes about a month for a new behavior to become a habit. “Then choose a reward for when the goal is reached, one that will motivate you. Not candy,” she laughs. “Maybe some jewelry, or a trip.”
Ready, set, action
Before starting an exercise regimen, “Absolutely check in with your family physician,” says Kilhefner. Then, says Granich, “Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity and duration,” to avoid injury. Healthy adults can aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two or more days of strength training per week. She suggests changing the routine to stay motivated, and find fun classes like Zumba.
Once you reach your goal weight, keep moving: “It will help you maintain your goal weight.”
And that’s exactly the point of losing weight naturally.