This is a busy time of year when patients who come to see me are already motivated to lose weight.
Many come in doing intermittent fasting or Dry January- which is in sharp contrast to those doing the keto diet from years past.
However, being successful losing weight and keeping it off are not about following the latest one-size-fits-all, fad diet.
Instead, it’s about finding your path to success. Here are some tips to guide you:
1 – Reflect on your previous weight gain and loss journey:
What has been hard? What has been easier? What helped take off pounds? What made you feel better?
You can learn a lot from self-reflection.
Having a long list of forbidden foods may help you quickly cut calories but can be hard to sustain long term and can lead to boredom.
Narrowing your eating window may fit your life if you were never much of a breakfast eater anyway; but for others, it can set you up to overeat – especially if you’re someone who feels hungry most mornings.
New research shows that it’s okay to skip a breakfast meal if you’re not hungry and if bypassing breakfast doesn’t make you overeat later in the day. I tell patients that this can be a form of intermittent fasting without really ‘fasting’.
Following a Dry January may sound abrupt, but it does make you reflect on the role that alcohol plays in your personal and social life. Many of my patients have more clarity and energy once they stop drinking.
Starting in February, if you choose to resume drinking, consider drinking alcohol as an occasional treat versus a daily indulgence. New studies show that frequent alcohol use can increase your risk of developing many cancers so this becomes a good health goal as well as a way to control your weight.
2 – Take a fresh look at your eating patterns:
Do you plan your meals and snacks or do you just eat on the go?
Are you a clean-your-plate kind of person and have trouble downsizing your food portions?
Do you have trouble controlling your hunger at work, at home and in social situations?
Do unpleasant emotions drive you to eat?
Losing weight and getting healthier is as much about when, why and how you eat as it is about what you eat.
You plan for the important things in your life like a work project, school assignment or family celebration. Then why not start using the same strategies when planning your meals and snacks? Just the simple act of planning will help you be in better control of what and how much you eat.
A good way to control hunger and calories at the same time is to re-proportion your plate and fill half your plate with lower energy-dense foods like vegetables, salads and fruits that are higher in fiber and water but lower in calories, ¼ plate with lean protein and ¼ plate with whole grains or carbohydrates.
Proper portions of foods from all food groups can be part of a healthy weight loss diet plan.
3 – Your physical activity patterns and mindset matter too
Your physical activity patterns and mindset can affect how you feel, how you manage stress and how you eat.
That’s why food-focused diet plans often come up short in giving people all the tools they need to feel better.
Being more active can be a great stress-reducer. Know that you don’t have to join a health club to be active.
Walking more and at a brisk pace is something you can do during the course of your normal day’s routine – by parking your car farther away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking your dog longer or taking after lunch walking breaks.
Incorporating stress-reducing activities and better self care into your day are also helpful. Reaching out to supportive people in your life, pursuing fun activities that keep you feeling energized and reminding yourself to do some slow, deep breathing when you feel stressed can go a long way to help you feel better.
The bottom line is that each person needs to find his or her own personal solution for losing weight and getting healthier.
As discussed in my new book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one size does not fit all! What fits your life may not fit someone else’s life.
If you want to get started finding your personal path to weight loss success, take my scientifically validated Six Factor Quiz and get your personalized results.
Enjoy your health!
Robert Kushner, MD