Wednesday wellness tips: Weight loss

In lieu of the regular RICE & MICE content for some of the off-season, I’m going to do a series on health and wellness. I hope you enjoy it and as always, if you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to leave comments or send me an email. This is not intended to be medical advice, nor should it take the place of you consulting a medical provider. Please see your doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner before starting any diet or weight loss program.

Quite often I have patients come in that want to lose weight, but necessarily know how. Most times, they are dieting, but they aren’t eating enough.

Sure, they lose weight initially, but they are tired all the time, they plateau quite early and they are hungry a lot. Any 200-pound person will lose weight at least for a short time by eating a 1200-calorie diet every day; however this person will end up hitting a plateau because they aren’t providing their body with the energy it needs to function, much less lose weight. First, weight loss takes a long time, it takes a lot of planning and it is hard work. There is no fast way to lose weight unless you can dedicate 6-to-7 hours a day to exercising and the rest of the time to healthy eating. While it works on The Biggest Loser, it’s often not sustainable. There is no easy way to lose weight. When I counsel my patients on weight loss there are several important things that I focus on:

1. Food diary

Write down everything you eat. If you bite it, write it. Write down what you ate, how much of it you ate, what time, and why. This usually helps people evaluate their own eating habits and allows them to see where they can make changes to their diet. There are several free websites that offer food diaries and most have calorie counters. Speaking of calories….

2. Find out how many calories you need to eat

You can calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories that your body needs in order to perform basic functions if you stayed in bed all day. This is not the number for a sedentary lifestyle; this is the number for a vegetative lifestyle. You shouldn’t eat less than your BMR. BMR is dependent on height, weight, gender and age (so as you lose weight, your BMR decreases).

To calculate BMR:

Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

You can also use an online BMR calculator, here.

Next calculate how much you need to eat in order to maintain weight in a sedentary lifestyle. For the average person, this is your BMR x 1.2

For example, a 5-foot-10, 250-pound 40-year-old man has a BMR of roughly 2240 calories. Then multiply the BMR by 1.2 and this equals 2688 calories.

It takes a 3500-calorie deficit to lose one pound, therefore, eliminating 500 calories daily will result in a weight loss of one pound per week. So, for the above example, this man should have a daily calorie goal of 2188 calories. Now, if this man eats only 2188 calories per day and burns 500 calories daily through exercise, this will result in a two-pound weight loss weekly.

3. Move more

What’s the best type of exercise?  Well, this is different for everyone. The ideal form of exercise is something that you can do anywhere, it’s something that you don’t hate doing, and it’s something that is practical and accessible for you to do. While snow skiing may be one of the things that you enjoy, it’s not always accessible. For most people walking will suffice. Keep in mind, there is no need to become a marathon runner, so if you despise running, you don’t have to do it!  My suggestion is to start with 20 minutes of walking a day. Notice I said 20 minutes of walking, and not a 20-minute walk. If you can’t find time for a 20-minute walk, can you find time for two 10-minute walks? Can you get to work early and walk for 10 minutes and then walk for another 10 minutes at lunch?

Inevitably, I always have patients that ask my opinion on the Atkins diet or the fill-in-the-blank fad diet or which diet plan is the best.

My answer to this is that the best diet plan is the one that you can sustain for the rest of your life. So, if you want to do the Atkins diet, you have to be okay with doing it for the rest of your life. If you are going to swear off white potatoes and white bread, you should be okay with not eating these foods forever. If you love baked potatoes, then a diet plan that doesn’t allow you to eat potatoes probably isn’t the best one for you. I can give any person a list of 20 foods that they can only eat and they will lose weight, but they will likely not want to only eat those 20 foods forever. This is the big reason why I encourage the food diary and calorie tracking.

There are a couple of websites that I recommend to my patients for calorie tracking purposes. One site is “The Daily Plate” through livestrong.com and the other is myfitnesspal.com, both are free.  There is also an iphone app for MyFitnessPal and several other smartphone apps for tracking calories and they should all be free as well.