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September 16 2016
 

Ten ways to achieve lifelong weight management

By Julie Larsen, MD, ProHealth Medical Group

Many of us have tried to lose weight – and some of us have even succeeded. Recent articles about Biggest Loser Contestants regaining their weight support what many of us already knew: Keeping weight off is even harder than losing it. So why is it so difficult to maintain a healthy body weight?

Body weight is influenced by genetics, behavior, hormones, metabolism, hunger – even the environment. Once you lose weight, your metabolism is lower and your body becomes more efficient at storing energy, so it is easier to regain your weight. If you go to extremes to lose weight by eliminating certain food groups (carbs and gluten are the trend now) or exercising all day (like the Biggest Losers), it can be difficult to maintain that behavior and you may regain the weight over time.     

As an integrative medicine physician who specializes in weight management, I believe you need to address quality of life related to mind, body, spirit and general health. Goals should be health related, such as feeling better and reducing your risk of disease, and should not just reflect an ideal number on a scale.

You can achieve lifelong results if you create a sustainable plan and focus on these 10 concepts:

  1. See your doctor before you begin a weight loss program. Be screened for underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or hypothyroidism, and determine whether you are on medications that interfere with weight loss.  

  2. Develop good sleep habits and talk to your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Adequate sleep is essential for weight loss.

  3. Set and track realistic, incremental goals for food, exercise and stress management. For example, if you don’t eat vegetables but your ultimate goal is three to five servings of vegetables, commit to having one serving a day for the next two weeks and progress from there. I recommend using an online tracker so you can clearly see your progress.

  4. Stress is a part of all of our lives and it can raise your blood pressure, interfere with sleep, trigger overeating and make it difficult to lose weight. Learn to manage stress with breath work, yoga, Tai chai, meditation and exercise. Enjoy spending time in nature and with people or pets you love.

  5. Be mindful of what you are eating and why. Are you hungry? Or are you eating because you are stressed or bored? Do not eat in the car or in front of the TV. Eat slowly. Savor and enjoy your food. When you have a treat, realize that you may be satisfied with a few bites.

  6. Eat a mostly plant-based diet consisting of whole, real foods in reasonable amounts. Stick to simple, minimally processed foods. If you limit dining out, you can control the quality of your food and save money. Learn to plan ahead, shop and prepare your food.

  7. Regular exercise is essential to avoiding weight regain and will improve your health. Your routine should include 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, daily stretching, and strength-based activities two to three times a week. Put exercise on your schedule. Do a variety of activities to challenge your body and avoid boredom.

  8. Be as active as possible throughout the day. Take the stairs, park farther away, bike to the store and play in the yard with your kids. Wear an activity tracker so you can be accountable to yourself, or try an online step challenge with your friends.

  9. One of the biggest barriers to long-term weight loss is an all-or-nothing philosophy. If you overeat or skip your exercise, just get back on track as soon as you can. No one is perfect. As you progress, you will become more and more pleased with the way you feel, look and function, motivating you to add new challenges.

  10. Look for fun ways to include friends and family in your journey to better health. Have a picnic, go on a family hike, try something new (like stand-up paddle boarding), have a family cooking night, or sign up and train for a charity race with a friend.

Julie Larsen, MD, leads ProHealth Medical Group’s weight management program. She can be reached at (262) 820-3093.

 

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.