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You Do Not Need to Diet to Lose Weight

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The definition of diet is "to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight." Diets often have negative associations, as they imply a period of discomfort. It suggests not eating the type or quantity of food that you normally enjoy. Additionally, a diet is often a short-term process and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

You do not need to suffer to lose weight. Losing weight may require work, but this work can be fun in a challenging sort of way, with the potential for very rewarding results. In my experience as a physician, patients that "diet" often see their weight fluctuate up and down the scale. This reflects the nature of a diet. Many diets are extreme and not sustainable. Some diets involve cutting out an entire food group, juicing, meal replacement, or severe calorie restriction. Additionally, when a person is on a diet, the complexity of eating is removed, as usually there are fewer choices. Therefore, when a person stops their diet, they often resume their previous style of eating, which typically leads to weight gain.

Eating is complex, as we live in a world of unlimited food options and choices. We need food to live. But unfortunately, in today's society, where food has been elevated to a source of pleasure and reward, people are living to eat. People need learn how to eat responsibly, with a consciousness about the quantity of food being consumed while still enjoying the experience.

The first step in successful weight loss is making the decision that you want to lose weight, with strong desire to do so. Consultants, physicians, and weight-loss programs can help guide a person to make better lifestyle choices, but the bottom line comes from the effort and action of the person trying to lose weight. A passive approach to losing weight -- such as an occasional healthy selection on a menu, or periodically skipping dessert -- does not usually result in weight loss.

Losing weight is a simple mathematical equation of expending more calories than consumed for an extended period of time. The imbalance does not need to be a large one, just a small and consistent one. For long-term, successful weight loss, a conscious lifestyle change, including a new approach to food consumption, is needed. Exercise is also an important aspect of weight loss, but it is hard to lose large quantities of weight based on exercise alone without a concomitant reduction in caloric intake. Many adults have a predictable pattern in their eating and food choices. Becoming aware of what and how you eat is needed in order to know how to change. Keeping a food diary is a good start, and with this information, modifications can be made. You can still enjoy the food you love, but you need to eat a little bit less and modify meals to lower calorie options.

Meal modifications can be simple and easy. Take for example a breakfast of eggs, toast and juice. There are several ways to make this meal healthier and less caloric. First, think about how many eggs you typically eat and how many yolks (most of the calories and fat are in the yolk). If you eat two full eggs each day, consider eating two egg whites, or just cutting down to one egg. If you normally cook your eggs with oil or butter, substitute no-calorie oil spray. With regards to the toast, if you eat two slices, reduce the portion to one or one and a half pieces of toast. Make sure not to lather your bread with too much butter, cream cheese or jelly. Make sure you keep it to a thin spread of your choice. Juice can be watered down with ice or regular or sparkling water. Any amount of food less than what you normally eat is progress. Also listen to your body. How hungry are you when you're eating this meal? Can you cut down the portion even more and still be somewhat satisfied? Could you consider cutting out the toast completely and substituting a small portion of fruit? Don't forget that lunch is just in a few hours, so you do not need an enormous amount of food at breakfast to make it to the next meal.

This sort of approach needs to be taken toward each meal and food selection. How can I eat a little less than I normally do? How can I cut down calories but still be happy with what I am eating?

This does take work, energy and focus. Are there times when you may be slightly hungrier? Yes, of course. But it is okay to be a little hungry as you're eating a little less. We live in a society of instant gratification, and we need to learn that sometimes a delay in the gratification leads to the most satisfaction. The best meal is one that you eat when you are hungry and have the need for food. Also, the sense of empowerment from gaining control and restraint against hunger and overeating is very satisfying.

When the pounds start to slowly come off, it catalyzes a positive cycle of reinforcing better habits with the rewards of feeling lighter and healthier. Soon this lifestyle change becomes a way of life. So stop the diet and empower yourself to make better choices. The next meal is your opportunity to make a change. Why not start today?

For more by Monica O. Weinberg, M.D., click here.

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