Proven Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss

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Each year, Americans spend $33 billion on commercial diet programs and much of that sum is essentially wasted.

Reason: The premise on which these programs are based cut calories and lose weight is at least 20 years out-of-date. In study after study, it has been thoroughly discredited.

Weight loss isn’t that simple. The hard part isn’t losing weight, but keeping it off. Unless you’re willing to eat frozen dinners and drink low-cal shakes for the rest of your life, that is almost impossible on most of the commercial weight-loss programs.

Not surprising, then, that many dieters shuffle unsuccessfully from one diet plan to the next losing weight on one program, putting it back on and then moving on to another plan.

In fact, counselors working for the leading commercial diet plans freely admit that perhaps nine of 10 people who try one commercial diet program wind up trying two or three or more.

Weight-loss principles

How do you take weight off and keep it off once and for all? There are three fundamental principles for effective and lasting weight losses

Principle #1: Take control of your life and your weight. Turning responsibility for what you eat and what you do over to anyone else is deadly. You must design a program for yourself. You also must open your life to self-inspection.

Often, eating is a survival skill. It’s a way of coping with frustrations and disappointments. Life can be very difficult. Eating can get you through it.

Overeating becomes a way to maintain emotional health although physical health is jeopardized as a result.

To overcome this self-destructive approach to food, you must learn to separate food itself from its emotional symbolism. You may need the help of a psychologist specializing in weight problems.

Principle #2: Accept your body. Focus not on how your body looks, but on what it enables you to do. Don’t compare yourself with the ideal body put forth in sexy movies or magazine ads. After all, body shape is determined largely by heredity. We tend to look like our mothers and fathers and that persists even if we’re successful at losing weight.

Principle #3: Make food a pleasure. Avoid thinking of food as a moral issue. “Good” foods are those you think you should be eating fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta, etc. “Bad” foods taste good but are fattening cakes, candy, sugary soft drinks, etc.

Substituting good foods for bad sounds like a good idea, but odds are its just setting you up for failure. Problem: Even if you could steer clear of “bad” foods for several months, you’d give in to temptation possibly by going on an eating binge.

Better way: If you like cheesecake, allow yourself the freedom to eat it on occasion. By removing this cheesecake “taboo,” you reduce your obsession with it.

Dieting vs. Your set point


The only way to ensure lasting weight loss is to lower your set point the weight your body “thinks” it should weigh. When people overeat, they generally gain weight only temporarily, returning to their usual weight or “set point when they resume their previous eating habits.

Similarly, when you go on a low-calorie diet, your body wants to keep you from starving. As a result, your metabolism slows to maintain your set point. Result: Weight loss occurs very slowly. When you resume your normal eating patterns, your weight quickly rises to its former level.

To lower your set point, reduce your intake of dietary fat and increase your lean muscle mass. In other words, lighten up your eating habits and exercise enough to build muscle.

Cutting out dietary fat

• Start small

You’re not going on a diet; you’re changing the way you eat for the rest of your life. So there’s no need to cut out dietary fat all at once.

You might start by switching to milk instead of cream in your coffee, then switching to low-fat mayonnaise on your sandwiches, etc.

• Eat what you like

If you already enjoy certain low-fat foods, make them staples of your diet. Make a list of your favorite high-fat foods, and find a way to substitute low-fat versions for some of them.

• Keep track of your fat intake

Buy a nutritional guide that lists the fat content of each food. Use it to calculate how many grams of fat you consume each day.

The maximum number of grams of fat you can eat each day and still lose weight is determined by your age, sex and medical condition, among other things.

A woman over 30 should probably consume no more than 20% of her calories in the form of fat. A man over 30 can probably get away with up to 25%. (One gram of fat equals about nine calories.)

• Make sure the whole family adopts healthful eating habits

If your spouse has an ice cream sundae for dessert, you probably won’t feel satisfied with a pear. But if everyone in the family starts eating healthfully, there’s less temptation.

The importance of exercise

The more you exercise the more muscle you build. And because muscle cells burn dietary fat more efficiently than fat cells do, gaining muscle mass speeds your metabolism. Payoff: A thin person can eat much more fat than a fat person without gaining weight.

If you’ve been inactive for a long time, begin by exercising just five or 10 minutes a day. Gradually build until you’re exercising at least 20 minutes a day, three to four days a week.

The point is to do what you like. Otherwise, you’ll quickly give up exercising. If you used to play a lot of volleyball or softball, for example, try to work these activities back into your schedule. If you’re joining a gym, look for one where you feel comfortable. One reason people stop going to the gym is that they feel they don’t measure up. If you feel intimidated by a fancy club, try the local “Y” instead.

Consider hiring a personal trainer. If you can’t afford one, pool your money with a few friends and hire a trainer to come to one of your homes. Invest in headphones and a few good exercise tapes.

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