The Leaner Way


It is that time of year when Americans start thinking about going on a diet. The holiday season is over, and with it, most people have put on a few extra pounds, maybe even 10 or more. For many, the decision is not whether to go on a diet but which one will produce the best results. It can be difficult trying to sift through the latest diets on the bookshelves or the latest research on the internet. For most, the decision is made based on what friends or family members are choosing to do to lose weight. This approach may work well for some, but it can produce only short-term results. Statistics show that 95 percent of dieting attempts do not result in long-term success. During the past 24 years working as a registered dietitian in the area of weight management, I have discovered some solid principles that can increase the odds that individuals will be able to lose weight and keep the weight off. I call this weight management approach “The Leaner Way.”

In our thin-obsessed society, it is important to ask yourself some questions before you embark on any weight-loss endeavor. The first question should be: “Do I really need to lose weight?” If the answer is yes, is it for health reasons – (has your doctor suggested that you need to lose weight) or aesthetic reasons, or both? Secondly, take stock of your prior weight loss/body-image history. Do you have a history that includes an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating or significant disordered eating)? If the answer is yes, you may need to recognize that pursuing weight loss could actually be a detriment to your health at this time. Working with a dietitian and/or therapist that specializes in eating disorders may be the best next step for you. (See the article by Brad Kennington in the G Style Know section to learn more about body-image issues.)

Assuming you are a good candidate for weight loss, it is important to avoid setting your weight-loss goals too high. Research supports that individuals will see health improvement (in blood pressure and cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar) with a modest 10 percent reduction in body weight. After losing this first 10 percent, you can reset your goal to lose another 10 percent if you choose. The other misconception many people have is related to the speed of weight loss; a safe and reasonable approach is to expect about a 1-to 2-pound loss per week. Some weeks may produce more than this and some may show no weight loss. The key is to respect and be patient with your body. Remember that, physiologically, we are more suited to living in the environment of our ancestors where food was scarce and avoiding starvation was a primary goal.

The keys To The Leaner Way program can be summarized as follows:

Fuel Mix – This refers to the ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fat in a given meal or snack. Including protein- or fat-containing foods with carbohydrates at most meals and snacks tends to provide the most satiety (which helps prevent overeating) and also prevents blood-sugar dips (which result in lower energy).

Fruits And Vegetables – Most Americans get about two servings a day total instead of getting the five to nine servings recommended. (One serving equals 1/2 cup or a small piece of fruit.) These important foods are the main contributors of antioxidants (immune enhancers), fiber (good for regular bowels) and satiety (due to the fiber and the vitamin/mineral content).

Meal Timing/Frequency – Eating breakfast will enable you to burn 100 to 200 calories more each day, so you don’t want to skip this chance to rev up your metabolism as well as prevent overeating/binge eating later in the day. The American Dietetic association recommends consumption of four to five meals/snacks per day; my experience is that it is best to go about three to five hours between feedings, coordinating your eating with true physiological hunger.

Portions – My recommendation for meals is to use a 10-inch plate to determine appropriate portions to promote better health and weight loss. Picture half the plate with vegetables and/or fruit, and the other half equally divided in to a protein and starch/grain section.

Record Keeping – Keeping an accurate daily food diary is highly correlated with successful weight-loss efforts.

Exercise – This may feel like a four-letter word for you. If so, just get moving! The body will benefit from any type of movement you get, from gardening, house cleaning and walking the dogs, to more vigorous exercise in the form of tennis, dancing and jogging.

Say No To Deprivation – My weightloss clients have typically been on many diets in the past. They are familiar with the diet cycle: feel fat, go on a diet; feel deprived and hungry, overeat or binge; feel guilty, feel fatter, go on another diet! This is a very futile cycle, to say the least. For better results, move away from black-and- white thinking and include some of your favorite foods. For example, when you want some chocolate, go get the best chocolate you can find and eat it slowly and enjoy it in modest amounts.

Whether you are trying to actively lose weight or just want to be on a healthier eating plan, you can use the leaner Way tips to get a jump-start on your New Year body goals.


Did You Know?

> Chocolate, historically known as a “food of the gods” by the ancient Mayans of Mexico, was considered a sacred source of strength, stamina, amorous energy and status. it even served as their currency.

> Chocolate originates from cocoa beans that are actually seeds from the fruit of the Theobroma cocoa tree. These seeds are used to make chocolate and cocoa powder. Milk chocolate is not as healthy as dark chocolate since it has more butter and sugar; white chocolate contains no chocolate at all.

> The antioxidants, phenols and flavenols in chocolate may offer protection against heart disease by reducing the damaging effects of LDL (bad cholesterol).

> Dark chocolate is also known as a “love drug” due to its heart-quickening properties (likely from the component phenylethylamine), as well as its mood- enhancing properties (attributed to serotonin and endorphins).