Taking Action to Manage Your Weight
Prevention and Management Strategies
Being overweight or obese must be treated as a chronic medical condition with dire health consequences, particularly as they pertain to the cardiovascular system.
Preventing weight gain in the first place is always the best strategy. But when you’re overweight or obese and have committed yourself to a weight-control program, it is important to remember that slow and steady wins the race. In many cases, to be effective, weight-management must incorporate a wholesale change — essentially a new way of eating, for life. The focus should be gradual, consistent weight loss over a long period of time.
Tips for Healthy Weight Management
As you begin your weigh-control program, keep these pointers in mind:
- Post your goals where you can look at them often, and you’re more apt to stay motivated.
- Aim to lose weight slowly — .5 to 2 pounds (.25 to 1 kg) per week, and you’re more likely to keep it off.
- Remember that quick fixes do not work.
- Lose even 5% to 10% of your body weight — it is enough to improve your heart health.
- Weight-loss strategies should be enjoyable, practical, and fit your personal lifestyle.
Eat regular meals:
- Aim to eat three meals a day.
- Space your meals no more than four to six hours apart.
- Include healthy snacks.
Build an eating plan, not a "diet":
- Weight management involves initiating a lifelong eating plan; diets are temporary — they don't work.
- Calorie intake should not be less than 1,200 calories per day.
- Remember that how much you eat counts.
- Choose smaller meals and snacks.
- Don’t cut back too much. If you’re hungry, you’re more likely to overeat.
- It takes 15 minutes or more for your brain to receive the signal that you’re full. Eat slowly to avoid overeating.
Choose from all food groups:
- Include foods from vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and its alternatives, and meat and its alternatives.
- A healthy meal contains foods from at least three food groups.
Keep a food journal:
- Keeping track of what you eat will help you pinpoint your problem areas.
- Use this information to set goals for making small changes in your eating patterns.
- Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Try weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, stair-climbing, and skiing. It expends the most energy and has the added benefit of building bone mass.
- Engage in non-weight bearing activities, such as cycling and swimming, which expend a lot of calories and are excellent forms of exercise, particularly if you have knee problems.
- Walk briskly. You will lose weight, sleep better, increase your energy, and improve your overall heart health.
- Work out with a group to increase your motivation and accountability.
Know the effects of getting and staying active:
- An exercise program can burn between 300-500 calories a day or 1,000-2,000 calories per week.
- Exercise helps reduce belly fat, which reduces CVD risk.
- Exercise can increase muscle mass, which will cause basal metabolic rate to rise and help you burn calories more efficiently.
Get your family and friends involved in helping you meet your goal.
But most of all . . . be patient:
- Setbacks can happen to anyone trying to make a change in eating and activity patterns.
- It takes about six months of practicing a new skill or behaviour to make it a habit.
- Accept that slip-ups occur, get back on track, and don't give up.
Selecting a Weight-Management Program
Find or craft a weight-management program that:
- Allows you to lose no more than 2 pounds a week — slower weight loss means longer term results (Canada’s Food Guide may be adapted to support gradual and safe weight loss).
- Promotes a balanced diet that incorporates all four food groups as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide.
- Encourages a combination of physical activity and nutrition strategies.
- Provides for a maintenance stage to make sure you stick to it over the long haul.
- Addresses your individual needs.
- Emphasizes realistic lifestyle changes rather than special diets or expensive prepackaged foods.
- Does not require a long-term contract.
- Is delivered by health professionals (physician, nurse, exercise physiologist, nutritionist) who are qualified to provide appropriate lifestyle recommendations tailored to your needs.
A smart eating plan includes a wide variety of choices from the four food groups. The number of servings recommended for each food item varies according to the number of calories you need to maintain a healthy weight. The chart below provides serving guidelines for the main food groups based on daily calorie intake:
|Vegetables||4 to 6||4 to 6||5 to 7|
|Fruit||2||3||3 to 4|
|Grains and starches||5 to 6||6 to 8||8 to 9|
|Milk and alternatives.||2||2||3|
|Meat and alternatives||2||2-3||3|
|Fats and oils||3||4 to 5||5 to 6|
|Sweets and other foods||0 to 1||1 to 2||1 to 3|
Avoiding Special Diets
It would seem there are nearly as many weight-loss programs as people who want to lose weight. A lot of these are legitimate and effective tools that promote gradual weight loss and healthy lifelong habits. Others are more diet than lifestyle-altering program, and they have the potential to cause serious health problems.
Low-carb diets restrict the carbohydrates you eat to less than 20 grams a day. The diet promotes the mobilization of fat to energy because without carbohydrates as an energy source, the body is forced to draw on fat reserves. However, the initial pounds that come off are merely from water loss and precious metabolically active lean tissue is lost.
Focusing largely on protein, these extreme diets are ineffective long-term options. High-protein diets, like their low-carb counterparts, promote the use of fat, rather than carbohydrates, for energy mobilization. The breakdown of fat in these diets are associated with processes that strain both the kidneys and liver, ultimately leading to dehydration.
Other reasons high-protein diets should be avoided:
- Eating protein alone, you can’t be sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
- Protein food sources are often associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes because they tend to be high in saturated fats.
- Electrolyte imbalances from excess water loss, which leads to fatigue and changes in blood pressure, often occur with these diets.
When all else fails, some people resort to very low calorie diets, in which they get as little as 800 calories a day. The guiding principal of these diets is appetite suppression. With so few calories, the dieter eventually no longer feels hungry. These diets incorporate the use of meal replacements, liquid meals, and high-protein food sources.
Reasons semi-starvation diets should be avoided:
- There is often significant loss of lean body mass — most alarmingly from heart tissue.
- The initial weight loss comes merely from water excretion.
- Insufficient carbohydrates are consumed, which the body needs for energy.
- Because such an extreme diet cannot be sustained, unhealthy weight cycling is often the result.