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Rescuing the ‘Lose Weight’ Resolution

By Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, CDE

Welcome to the start of a new year. What’s on the minds of many—if not most—of your clients and patients is the No. 1 New Year’s resolution: lose weight. And many RDs are trying to figure out ways to help them achieve this goal.

During the holiday season, individuals gain an average of 1.7 lbs, according to a recent study from Texas Tech University. Some gain even more and believe they have to go on a crash diet and begin a vigorous exercise program to shed the pounds. But what many clients don’t realize is that all they need to do is make some small changes to their daily eating and exercise habits and the weight will come off throughout the year—slowly but surely. Achieving a healthier weight reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors (eg, hypertension, high cholesterol), improves mobility, facilitates sleep, and enhances quality of life.

Keri Gans, RD, and author of The Small Change Diet, encourages her patients at the start of a new year to aim for small, achievable goals. “A long to-do list only gets overwhelming for them, and it sets them up for failure,” she says. 

Starting a weight-loss effort with small behavior changes can reinforce confidence and boost motivation, two areas in which dietitians can have an impact, says Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the author of The Food is My Friend Diet. “This is where our expertise comes into play. We have to look at [each person’s] situation and figure out what small steps will work for [him or her]. Since people are unique, depending on their individual habits, what works for some won’t apply to others.”

One creative strategy clients can use is the Lose 100, Use 100 weight-loss method. That is, eat 100 fewer calories (lose 100) each day and burn 100 extra calories (use 100) with increased physical activity. Clients who begin the Lose 100, Use 100 approach can drop as much as 20 lbs over the course of 2013. Following are four Lose 100 and four Use 100 tips clients can put into practice today to begin shedding those unwanted pounds.

Lose 100

Substitute an English muffin for a bagel, top a salad with pico de gallo or fresh lemon or lime juice instead of salad dressing, or eliminate 2 tsp of fat (oil, butter, or margarine) from a potato, rice, or pasta dish.

Eat at home rather than at a restaurant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Research to Practice series called “Incorporating Away-From-Home Food Into a Healthy Eating Plan” describes how individuals in multiple studies ate significantly more calories of less nutritional value when dining in restaurants. Losing only 100 kcal with the Lose 100, Use 100 strategy likely is a modest estimate.

Eat on a smaller plate. The mind plays a key role in eating behavior. Research by Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, suggests that switching from a 12-inch plate to a 10-inch plate reduces calorie consumption by 22%.

Order a cup of soup rather than a bowl or enjoy ice cream in a cup and forgo the 120-kcal waffle cone.

Use 100

Go for a brisk walk or ride a bike for 15 minutes or garden or shovel snow for 20 minutes. These exercises use multiple muscle groups that burn calories fast.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator and accumulate 14 minutes of stair climbing throughout the day. Working against the force of gravity burns more calories than walking on level ground.

Wear a pedometer. According to the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Health Letter, a summary of 26 different studies showed that pedometer wearers averaged 2,000 more steps each day than nonwearers. The device acts as a “workout friend” by keeping users subconsciously accountable.

Prepare a low-calorie 30-minute meal (based on a 155-lb person). Gans says eating healthfully most of the time is the key. “Healthful eating isn’t about eating healthfully 100% of the time but rather eating healthfully the majority of the time. It’s necessary to leave room for [clients] to feel they’re not depriving themselves one single bit.” 

— Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, CDE, is a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com.