Weight control made easy

Words of advice from Helena Laroche, MD, UI professor of internal medicine:

Helena LaRoche
Helena Roche, MD

Ah, the good life! Sugary sodas, aromatic pizzas, comfy TV couches. Who can resist? You can, that’s who!

Let’s start with a simple fact: Virtually everyone benefits from healthful eating and activity. Research shows that even if you exceed your ideal weight, being active lowers your risk of death and many diseases. Furthermore, many healthful foods like fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce your risk of diseases like cancer.

We’ve heard this sage advice before, yet lots of smart people still struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Time pressures, stress, lack of cooking skills, and jobs involving a lot of sitting sometimes create poor eating habits and promote inactivity.

If only a magic shortcut to set things straight! There isn’t, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live healthier. I suggest starting with changes that are easier to make. For example:

  • Move the candy dish off your desk
  • Put the junk food at the far back of the cupboard or out of the house altogether
  • Eat from smaller plates
  • Leave the rest of the food in the kitchen so you have to get up to get it
  • Stay away from all-you-can-eat buffets (or at least sit far away from the buffet with your back to the food)

Whatever your plan, include both diet and physical activity. Research shows that the people who actually maintain their weight loss are those who include exercise in their routines.

When it comes to food, think natural. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The nutrition from nature’s garden far exceeds what you get elsewhere, including multivitamin pills. Whole grains, for instance, contain fiber that helps your gut move and lowers your cholesterol.

As for exercise, try something you enjoy. I like to focus on “physical activity” rather than “exercise” anyway. For many people, walking is a great place to start. Get a pedometer and start counting your steps. The goal is 10,000 steps a day, five days a week, but start by finding out where you are now and adding 500 steps. It doesn’t matter where you get your steps: around the house; down the street; parking father away; playing with your children; walking with a friend; exercising in a group; gardening; hiking; biking, or dance class. Whatever you enjoy.

There are also some benefits to exercises that build muscles such as using weights or doing exercises that use your own body as a weight.

My primary focus is actually on being active and eating healthful foods rather than weight. People who give up on the former just because they are not losing a lot of weight are missing out on good health benefits and feeling better. To work on weight once you are eating well and being active, it’s all about portion sizes or burning more calories. The most successful people track what they are eating and the exercise they are doing.

Give it a try…and have fun doing it!

–Winter 2013-14