There’s that four-letter word again: diet. We’ve come to regard it not-so-fondly, perhaps because our approach has been wrong. One diet does not fit all. We need to tailor our weight loss system to our specific needs and lifestyle for it to work. That requires a multifaceted approach.
For the extremely obese person, especially one with medical conditions related to weight, bariatric surgery is one option to consider, says Dr. Richard Moore of The Lifestyle Center. Either the lap band or gastric bypass will help people lose significant amounts of weight and reduce risk factors, he says. “Non-surgical approaches for obesity require a comprehensive program,” he adds. “To lose a lot of weight requires a major lifestyle change, something that’s very hard to do on your own.” He recommends involvement in group sessions, noting that people with group support lose 20 percent more weight and maintain that loss longer. In addition, clients should plan on one-on-one sessions as necessary.
Portion control is unavoidable because weight loss isn’t possible without controlling calories. Moore recommends keeping a food diary and tracking calories. Meal replacements like Optifast and other products can help jump-start weight loss. Moore says that getting up and moving is as important as dieting. He suggests buying a cheap pedometer and working up to 10,000 steps a day. “It provides a motivational goal,” Moore notes. “If you aren’t used to activity, then seeing how many steps you do take a day is enlightening. Resistance training is also crucial because it helps maintain muscle mass and keep metabolism up.”
Another thing that can add to the total approach to weight loss is having something that motivates you personally, like a picture on the refrigerator of when you were much heavier so you can see how far you’ve come, Moore suggests. “There are some bad diets out there that not only don’t help you lose weight, but that are dangerous and imbalanced. Choose carefully.”
Dr. Michele Koo of Aesthetic Surgery Institute helps women with surgical body contouring and is asked frequently by clients about weight loss. “It is very difficult after age 40 to lose weight and shape up entirely by yourself, no matter how active you have been in the past,” she says. “I finally went to a personal trainer to design a program to get my heart rate up enough to do any good and to sustain my interest in staying in shape. I have been doing this for two years and never intend to stop because it is an intense, weekly, structured situation in which I don’t have to motivate myself. I have someone else to keep me at it.”
She also acknowledges that effective lifestyle change has to be personalized and involves a multi-faceted approach. Changing eating habits, activity level and doing activities that target what the client wants to improve are critical to success, she adds. “Fewer calories and more interval weight training are a magic combination,” Koo notes. “The key is a better choice of foods by minimizing the intake of carbohydrates that are high in simple sugars, especially dried fruits, which are loaded. The problem is that most women, but men as well, are too busy with their jobs and kids to significantly exercise and eat properly. They have been dieting on and off for so long their metabolism has slowed to a crawl.”
Koo does not believe in quick fixes, but offers a holistic approach. She advises adjusting food and activity to the individual’s likes and lifestyle. Exercise also must fit schedules and lifestyle to become a habit. “You don’t have to hire a personal trainer,” she says. “You can go to exercise classes, something you like to do and where you have the support of a group. Just get out of the house and make sure the activity is within the scope of your abilities.”