Healthy Lifestyle

Cutting Winter Weight for your Summer Bod

As we get closer to summer, many of us start looking for a quick fix to get ourselves into our beach bodies. 

But remember—we didn’t get to our current weight overnight and it won’t certainly come off overnight, either. So here’s the skinny on the healthy way to lose weight:

Start by taking stock of the problem

Knowing your body mass index (BMI) can be important in determining how aggressive you need to be with your weight loss, as well as realizing how high of a risk you are for the complications that come with obesity. Plug in your height and weight into an online BMI calculator to find out your current BMI. 

It’s common knowledge that as your BMI climbs, so does your risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. What we often forget is that 40 percent of all cancers in the U.S. are driven by obesity, and increasing weight causes worsening problems with urinary incontinence, arthritis, fertility, sleep apnea, dementia, depression, immobility and an increased likelihood of dying young.

Set a realistic goal for weight loss

Many of us set sky-high weight loss goals that aren’t very realistic. Doing so sets us up for failure because we feel overwhelmed. You really just need to lose 5-7 percent of your current weight to significantly decrease your risk for heart disease and diabetes, and the number of medications needed to control these diseases.

Create a plan for lifestyle change

Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong endeavor, and needs to be treated like it for the greatest success. This means focusing on three key areas:

  1. Restricting calories
  2. Regular exercise
  3. Behavioral modification

The rate of weight loss is directly linked to how many calories we take in compared to how many calories we burn. 

Time to evaluate

To lose weight, first think about all the calories you have consumed in the past 24 hours. Cutting just 500 calories should lead to approximately one pound of weight loss each week. 

Easy targets are:

  • Caloric beverages, such as sodas, creamers, juice, lattes, etc.
  • Processed foods, such as candy, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.
  • Oversized portions

What about a ketogenic, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, or high-protein diets? 

Fad diets and diet plans based on macronutrients come and go. There is no good or long-term data to say any diet over another is better for weight loss. What is more important is your ability to stick with your dietary choices over a lifetime. Pick a pattern of healthy foods rather than trying to eliminate entire food groups. 

Add in physical activity

Current recommendations are for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise during leisure time each week, as well as two days of resistance training. Exercise alone is not sufficient for weight loss; you need to be both calorie restricting AND exercise, not one or the other. Exercise will also help you maintain muscle mass and lean body weight that can be lost with just calorie-cutting alone.

Accept that your changes are a new way of life

Successful weight loss requires accepting we’ve learned bad habits about eating and exercise and that we can modify our behaviors to lose the weight. This involves:

  • Changing our environment
  • Controlling triggers for overeating or eating the wrong foods
  • Self-monitoring of calorie intake, activity records and weight

Many studies have shown that behavior modification may have the greatest impact on sustained weight loss. 

In the end, it all boils down to preparing yourself for a healthy way of life. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables and have them readily available. Stop buying processed foods—out of sight, out of mind. Meal prep on Sunday nights. Pack a gym bag and bring to work. Little changes can lead to big losses. 

About the Author

A child of a military family, internal medicine physician Dr. Shana Peper was raised to be selfless and do whatever she could to help others.

She treats a wide range of patients at Methodist Physicians Clinic Indian Hills.

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