By Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra
If you’ve resolved to lose weight this year, here’s how to do it safely and successfully. Do you know which New Year’s resolution is among the most popular year after year?
If you said, “I’m going to lose weight,” you’re absolutely right. Many people have very aggressive weight-loss goals at the beginning of the year.Others want to shed the extra one or two pounds they put on during the holiday season. But while we all have the best of intentions when we begin a new diet, studies show that more than a third of us will give up our new diets within the first week.
However, all is not lost (pun intended). It IS possible to lose weight safely and successfully over the long term. You just need to understand the basic principles of weight loss as well as the proven tips and techniques that can help you shed those extra pounds.
A Formula for Weight Loss
It’s long been known that weight management plays an important part in preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease (CAD). When it comes to the various ways to approach weight loss, there is evidence that weight loss achieved through a combination of nutrition and physical activity is most effective at reducing risk factors for conditions such as CAD. It all boils down to a simple formula:
Level of Energy Consumed – Amount of Energy Expended = Weight loss, gain or maintenance
Put simply, to successfully lose weight, you need to make sure you take in (consume) less energy through the things you eat and drink than you expend through physical activity. There are several things you can do to help you follow this formula:
Your Dietary Intake
- Keeping a daily food log is an important first step to weight management. When you track your intake, whether on paper or through an app such as UA Record by Under Armour or myfitnesspal, it helps you see just how many calories you are taking in and where they are coming from. Aim to get your calories from healthy foods with nutritional value as opposed to high calorie foods such as sugary beverages and excess alcohol.
- Your meal pattern can affect your success. You may not know this but your pattern of meals and snacks taken throughout the day can affect your sugar levels. By spacing out your meals, you can help keep blood sugars from spiking up and reduce the release of hormones that can increase fat collection.
- Be aware of your nutritional needs. The U.S. government’s latest version of Dietary Guidelines for Americans makes it clear that your nutritional needs should be met primarily through your diet. For some people, however, supplements may be a useful way to get nutrients they might otherwise be lacking. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about which supplements and what doses might be appropriate for you. Be sure to ask about possible side effects and interactions with any medications you take.
Let’s Get Physical
- Getting the right amount of exercise and physical activity is crucial to increasing energy expenditure. It is recommended that with your doctor’s approval*, you get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Seek to incorporate strength training in your exercise routine to help maintain lean body mass.
- An Exercise Tip. Drink plenty of water. It is important to take in fluids during periods of exercise to avoid dehydration.
The Role of Behavior Modification
- Weight loss is easier when you have others around you who support your efforts. An often forgotten, but vital component of successful weight loss is behavior modification. As a physician, I often see patients using wearables such as Jawbone and Fitbit to create a network of people with similar weight-loss goals.
On Your Way to a Healthier You
Losing weight safely takes time. The techniques discussed here should be part of your plan for gradual and consistent weight loss. Seek to lose weight in small increments over a gradual period of time – this will help you maintain your weight loss. By safely approaching weight loss, you can prevent medical problems such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and dangerous heart rhythms from starting.
For more information about getting and staying healthier, get a customized Preventive Care Plan here, based on your age, gender and any of your known conditions. You can schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your plan and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra is a cardiologist for AdvantageCare Physicians, one of New York’s largest physician-led multi-specialty practices serving half a million patients in 36 locations throughout New York City and Long Island. Twitter: @drsunnymalhotra
*Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.