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Losing Weight

Weight ScaleDo you keep two wardrobes, one for the "heavy" you and one for the "thin" you? Does your body shape vary from year to year in the family photo albums? If you answer "yes," you are not alone. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) at any moment in America one in four men and four in ten women are trying to lose weight.

There are many reasons people are overweight according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):

What follows, for the most part, concerns general weight loss tips. Obesity is a much more serious condition and requires much more serious intervention. (Read about "Obesity")

Goals that work

One of the keys to successful weight control is being realistic. Before starting any weight loss program, it's important to see your doctor to deal with any underlying problems. That may include counseling.

You can also ask your doctor to help you determine your best weight. This may not be the weight you see in magazines or movies, but it should be the weight that allows you to feel and be healthy for yourself. One indicator that can be used to help do this is your Body Mass Index or BMI. (Read about "Body Mass Index") Then, working with your physician, it's time to plan your weight loss strategy. That means planning a regular exercise program and a regular eating program. Any weight loss plan without an exercise component is doomed to failure says the ADA.

Starting slowly

AAFP says it's also helpful to break your weight and lifestyle goals down into smaller, more manageable ones. Perhaps start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet; then work on reducing the amount of fried foods you're eating. (Read about "Dietary Guidelines") By making small, but permanent changes in your diet and lifestyle, you may not "drop" pounds as fast, but you still can lose weight. And what's more, unless you have a medical need to lose excess weight quickly, most experts agree that gradual weight loss is more likely to be sustained for the long-term.

Another key, according to the ADA, is to stop thinking in terms of a short-term "diet," and start thinking about making a permanent change in your eating and lifestyle habits. Before setting out on such a change, it can be useful to examine your current eating and exercise habits. You can keep a journal for a few weeks to help determine, for example, the times you're most likely to eat for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger, times when you eat out of frustration, for example, or boredom.

It's also important to examine your attitude towards food in general. Do you see food as an enjoyable source of nutrition and sustenance for your body? Or do you equate food with other things? By working to develop a healthier attitude about food in general, you can increase the likelihood of maintaining healthier eating habits.

Helpful guidelines

When you're trying to lose weight, the following suggestions are compiled from the ADA, the Calorie Control Council and the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics.

Diet alone isn't the answer

It's not enough to cut back on the amount of food you eat. ADA says regular exercise is the other key factor in permanent weight control. (Read about "Getting Started on Fitness") Exercise helps to burn calories. In addition, building muscle can help increase your metabolic basal rate, so you burn more calories throughout the day.

Although you should always ask your doctor before starting a diet or exercise program, many health experts suggest exercising at least three times a week for at least 20 minutes each time. (Read about "Walking for Health") Exercise doesn't just burn calories; it also raises your metabolism so you continue to burn more calories even after you stop exercising. (Find a Calorie Calculator in "Burning Calories") The American Council on Exercise says that exercise also increases muscle mass; since muscles burn calories at rest, more muscle mass also means an increase in your body's ability to burn calories. And all that can help put you on the path towards permanent, successful weight control.

It's also a good idea to remember that for most people slow and steady weight loss is more likely to produce permanent results. On the other hand, weight loss, especially rapid weight loss, can also be associated with certain health risks such as gallstones (Read about "Gallstones"). So if weight or obesity (Read about "Obesity") is a health consideration, or if someone has a great deal of weight to lose, they must consult their doctor first about the best way to go ahead.

Weight loss products

There are a number of products on the market for weight loss. Some are over-the-counter and some are prescription only. Many products that claim weight reduction abilities are not regulated however. Before taking any medications, supplements or other products to induce weight loss you should discuss the issue with your doctor. Some products can interfere with medications you are already taking (Read about "Drug Interaction Precautions") or could cause other problems.


The morbidly obese (Read about "Obesity") are candidates for what is called bariatric surgery. (Read about "Bariatric Surgery") The American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) says a patient whose BMI exceeds 40 is a potential candidate for surgery if they strongly desire substantial weight loss, because obesity severely impairs the quality of their lives. There are many types of bariatric surgery. They can include surgery to restrict the size of the stomach and/or surgery to bypass parts of the digestive tract. All of these surgeries carry risks, some of them serious. They include ones that any type of surgical procedure involves. (Read about "Learn About Your Procedure") ASBA says that there are also nutritional consequences to the surgery with lifelong requirements to monitor one's diet for the correct nutrients.

Related Information:

    Waist-to-Hip Ratio

    Food Labels

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

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By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.