Nothing Tastes As Good As It Feels To Be Thin

Several years ago one of my patients made that statement to me and it has stuck with me ever since. It is such a true statement about health, but I would add that your heart, your spine, and your joints also depend on it. Everyone knows that diet and exercise is the key to weight loss, but what exactly does that mean? Here are a few practical tips that I have found very helpful in my life and for many patients over the years.

Weight loss is a major part of your overall health, not just a cosmetic problem. Do not use the excuse that your physical condition, including arthritic joints limiting your ability to exercise, is the reason that you cannot avoid being overweight. Basically, if your exercise level is diminished for whatever reason, then your intake must be cut back accordingly. In order to lose weight, you must make it a priority everyday. You cannot manage what you do not measure; therefore, you should have an accurate bathroom scale, preferably a digital readout, that you check with every morning. That way, your activity and dietary intake for the day will be affected by that number.

Where “diet” implies a temporary fix to a chronic problem, what you really need is a change in lifestyle. Your eating habits need to be modified in three ways: lower calories (smaller portions), lower fat, and minimize carbohydrates. Lowering calories requires approximately a 50% reduction in your average total intake per day. Lowering fat requires avoiding saturated fat (read food labels), and especially avoiding, obviously high-fat items such as bacon, sausage, cheese, ice cream, hot dogs, pizza, and snack foods. Lowering carbohydrates requires eliminating all bread and bread products (bagels, crackers, etc.), all pasta, all potatoes, all rice, and all sweets (pies, cakes, pastries, cookies, candy and soft drinks). Therefore, your daily food intake should consist of only: low fat meat, fish or chicken, vegetables, fruits, and salads. A daily mini-fast is often a good idea, skipping either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you want to go for optimal health, you might try a “Whole Food Plant Based Diet” which eliminates all animal protein, all dairy, and all refined foods. Check out “vegan diet” on the internet.

Exercise is essential to any weight loss program. Ideally, 60 minutes of exercise per day should be your goal, but 30 minutes minimum. A brisk walk outdoors or on a treadmill, (approximately 3 m.p.h.), riding a bike, or using any kind of low impact equipment at a fitness center (such as stair machine, ski machine, elliptical machine, exercise bike and swimming) are all beneficial ways to stay active. Divided doses of exercise in two half-hour segments are fine – any exercise that you do is good. Avoid taking elevators whenever possible. Take stairs even if you stop on every floor or two to catch your breath. For people with arthritic hips or knees, an exercise bike is still your best option, where your body weight is supported, and your legs are just exercising without as much stress.

Hopefully, these suggestions are helpful to you. My wife and I have been following this program for years with good success

Bruce T. Henderson, M.D. Oakland Orthopedic Partners

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