Bob Denny: How’s that diet working for you?

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.

Here’s the bad news: Diets fail! Statistically, folks who go on a serious weight-loss diet fail.

They either try too hard, and lose to hunger, or lose too fast and doom themselves to gain it all back — and then some. I’m not an expert on nutrition, but research shows that there are certain proven principles we can depend upon for successful weight control and for attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Why do diets fail? Significant changes in our diet can be too severe for the body and mind to accept without a fight. The body responds by dumping “hungry hormones” into the bloodstream. Also, when cells don’t get the calories they require, they actually begin to starve. It goes without saying, this can be painful.

When we eat less food, there’s an accompanying loss of nutrition: vitamins, minerals protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. They’re all needed for proper nutrition. Lack of nutrition drives the body to demand more food. Hunger wins.

How about these low carb diets? Not good for long-term results. Carbs not only provide calories, but they function to control water metabolism. So on a low-carb diet, you can lose a pound a day — but, it’s mainly water loss. Without carbohydrates to control water metabolism, your body can’t store water. It’s possible to become dangerously dehydrated. Then when you return to regular meals, your body quickly regains the water, and you gain it all back.

Here’s the good news: You can use proven scientific principles to lose weight and maintain that healthy weight.

The best way to healthy weight control is a healthy diet. We need all the proper nutrients: protein, carbs, fats, (yes, we even need fats!) vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Avoid convenience foods or snack food. Food companies add sugar, fat and extra salt, because their research shows that these added ingredients actually create cravings. And, since “junk food” doesn’t provide the real nutrition you need, your body demands that you keep eating, in an effort to satisfy your basic nutritional needs. So you overeat, and store the extra calories as fat.

The body is like a machine. It converts food into “you.” You are, to a degree, what you eat. The body has caloric needs. Consume fewer than you need, lose weight. More than you need, gain weight.

Your feelings of hunger probably aren’t the best guide in deciding the size of your meals. You can use one of the many lists of food calorie contents and portion size available on the internet, or your local library, to educate yourself on general calorie content. A good rule of thumb? It takes about 10 calories a day per pound of body weight to must maintain your weight. For example, if you’re 200 pounds, your body requires about 2000 calories a day just to maintain that weight. You can use this principle to reach your goal weight and stay there: Choose your healthy goal weight, and multiply it by ten to determine how much you should eat each day. Let’s say you want to weigh 180 pounds. 180 times 10 equals 1,800 calories per day.

It’s also helpful to take regular meals. Typically, three meals a day reduce hunger, and still allow satisfying meals. For an 1,800-calorie diet, that would be about 600 per meal.

Don’t obsess over this. It’s okay to give in to a little snack rather than feel like a failure and give up. Stop worrying about how long it takes. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

For a healthy lifestyle, add a little physical activity. It’s not necessary to run a marathon. Walking can be a great way to work out, with the least stress or risk of injury. Include some stretching.

Check with your doctor, to allow for any physical limitations you may have.

How about putting some of these principles to work for yourself? Be healthier and happier. Make the choice now, and make it happen.

Bob Denny is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida who teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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