Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Healthy Weight Center

Losing Weight with Minimal Resources?

03/12/2009

Question:

I am 5`5" and I weigh almost 160lbs. I would like to lose between 25-35lbs. I am in the military so I exercise regularly. I had changed my whole diet to total organic and lost weight fast. I am now in an area where I can`t eat organic all the time and the weight is back. How long will it take to lose it the right way? (I am thinking about 4-6 months) I am going to start watching my food intake and exercise more.

What else can I do? I really want this to happen.

Answer:

It sounds like you might be eating correctly; just too much. You are right in thinking that you should take 4-6 months to lose your weight. Your weight loss the first time could have been a lot of water weight if you lost it fast. With slow weight loss you can be more sure that it is actual fat weight that you have lost and not just water weight. When you lose weight fast your body preferentially gets its calories that it needs and isn't getting in your food for the day from your muscle instead of your fat stores. Muscle holds water, so when the muscle is used water is released. For every pint of water you eliminate you lose 1 pound.

What's the right way to lose weight?

Start by keeping a diary of your food and beverage intake and your physical activity. I found that wearing a pedometer was a good way for me to keep track of how active I was, though if you are doing exercises like sit ups and and pull ups the pedometer won't reflect this type of activity.

Check in at www.supertracker.usda.gov and determine how many calories you should be eating to maintain your weight. You can also keep a record of your food intake and physical activity at the web site through supertracker. You will put in your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. supertracker will give you how many calories you need to maintain your weight, and how it should be broken down into food groups. Since you want to lose weight you need to reduce your calories by 300 to 500 calories per day from the maintenance level. You will lose 1 pound for every 3500 calorie deficit you create. You need to do it slowly (eg 1 pound per week) so you don't force your body into starvation mode (a slower metabolism). When weight is lost fast the calories your body burns come from your muscles first and not your fat stores. It burns the muscle calories and releases the water that the muscle holds. You lose muscle and water weight; not fat weight.

When you go to the food groups in supertracker you'll notice that all the groups have a triangular shape. Food at the bottom of each triangle is less processed, though is not necessarily organic. Eat foods from the bottom of the pyramid and you'll have fewer hidden calories in your food. Eg. a small baked potato instead of french fries or potato chips, or a fresh apple instead of sweetened applesauce or apple pie.

One thing you do not want to do is skip meals. When you skip meals you unknowingly tell your body that food is in short supply and it needs to conserve. It responds by slowing your metabolism, which means you don't burn as many calories. Don't go longer than about 5 hours without eating (except when you are sleeping).

So . . . get up in the morning and eat breakfast. A high protein, high fiber breakfast cereal with nonfat milk, plus fruit on the cereal will provide you with a good start to the day. The protein in the cereal and milk, and fiber in the cereal and fruit provide you a breakfast with 'staying' power that will keep you going from a 7:00 breakfast until noon. Kashi and Nature's Path are two cereal brands that make a high protein, high fiber cereal. Eat lunch. Look at your meal plan that supertracker.usda.gov gives you and decide what you can eat for your lunch. You can use frozen dinners heated up in the microwave at work or a sandwich, plus fruit you bring from home. Or purchase your sandwich ( plain hamburger or grilled chicken), add extra lettuce and tomato, and order a salad to go with it. Go easy on the dressing on the salad or just salt and pepper it. Bring fruit to eat with your purchased food.

If you won't be able to eat your evening meal until late you may be better off having a small snack at 5:00 or so - maybe lowfat cheese and lowfat, 100% whole grain crackers, or 1/4 cup dried fruit and nuts or lowfat yogurt. Then you won't be ravenous when you eat dinner.

Be careful of your portions at dinner so you don't go over your calorie limit. For good nutrition you should look back at what you have eaten earlier in the day and make your evening meal from the remaining foods in your supertracker food plan.

Successful weight losers listed through the National Weight Control registry (they have maintained their weight loss for 5 years and more) eat breakfast, don't skip meals, monitor their weight regularly and are physically active every day.

Good luck to you.

For more information:

Go to the Healthy Weight Center health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University