Thoughts about Weight Loss from a Dietitian
I have been a dietitian for almost 5 years now (crazy how time flies) and at least once a day if not more, I talk about weight loss or something related to weight with my patients, co-workers, friends, or family members. Weight is a personal topic but I find that people are more open to sharing their story and getting my opinion knowing that I am a dietitian. I am always willing to give my 2 cents depending upon the situation but a lot of times it seems like people are looking for 'secrets' or 'magic pill' that will get rid of their excess weight. Sorry folks, I am a dietitian and not Dr. Oz or some snazzy celebrity who endorses weight loss pills/detox drinks/miracle diet and give you unrealistic/dangerous/unscientific advice about weight loss. Weight loss is a personal journey that is different for everyone and it is more of a lifestyle change towards better health and well being than just the number you see on the scale. Therefore, I am going to share some "Thoughts about Weight Loss" straight from the perspective as a dietitian.
Calories In vs. Calories Out: People have differing views when it comes to calories but I believe that one should have an general idea about calories, their caloric needs, and how much they generally consume on an average day. While weight loss is more than just calories, it is nevertheless important to be mindful about it because weight loss partly occurs when you are burn more calories than consume it. I say partly because there are so many variables that goes with weight loss and calorie deficit is just one of those factors. Calorie counting can be beneficial but please don't get obsessed about every fat grams and carbs you eat or stick to some ridiculous low calorie diet. I have seen people eating 500-1200 calories a day with no medical supervision and that could be dangerous. If you are really into low-calorie diet, there are medically supervised programs that might be something to consider, but research have suggested that low calorie diets are effective only for a short-term. Additionally, going on a low-calorie diet could be harmful to your body, gallstones is one of them.
Spend your Money on "Real Food": Healthy eating, an essential part of weight loss begins in your kitchen so instead of diet pills/detox tea, spend your hard earned dollars on 'real food' and spend time on meal planning, preparing, and cooking food at home. I find that most people struggle with the idea of 'cooking at home' or 'preparing meals ahead of time' which I know first hand is not always easy because fast food next door sells us food quick, delicious, and for cheap. I am not suggesting you to do an overnight pantry makeover or stop eating out altogether - the goal is to make a mental shift on 'cooking at a home' a priority and eating out less. Here are some resources to get you started:
Weight Loss is not Instantaneous: Advertisements like "lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks" or get "flat abs in 1 week" looks pretty tempting at first but seriously, have you met anyone in 'real' life who has lost all that and maintained it long term? The answer is NO because those regimen will require you to eat very little to no calories in return for some weight loss (mostly water weight), lots of misery and deprivation. If you are looking to fit into your uber tight clothes for the evening or something super instant, skipping a meal or two might help but for a long-term sustained weight loss, it takes some patience because weight gain or loss just doesn't happen overnight. A realistic and healthy weight loss recommendation is about 1-2 lbs per week but again, don't get hung up solely on that number. Some people lose at a faster rate than others and I also suggest everyone to see how their clothes fit, how they feel mentally/emotionally after 2-3 weeks of starting a healthier lifestyle.
What's the Underlying Cause? A lot of times we are worried about the number on the scale while failing to address what's hindering the weight loss goals. We go through stress, side-effects from medication, hormonal issues, inadequate physical activity, eating 'too much healthy foods' etc which makes weight loss harder than it already is. Therefore, it might be worth channeling your energy into fixing the underlying root cause which will naturally assist with weight loss. For example: I had a patient who was going through a lot of stress and was eating her emotions which caused her to gain a lot of weight in a short period of time. When she contacted me for weight loss, after an initial assessment I suggested her to see a behavioral therapist first for her emotional eating because my recommendation would be futile if she continued to eat due to stress (which is her prime problem) which will lead to more weight gain, stress and frustration.
Hire Experts: If you feel like you have exhausted your options, done your homework, read and tried everything on weight loss - may be it is time to hire the experts such as dietitian/personal trainer/behavior therapist depending on what you need.
Find the 'experts' in the field with experience, training, and skills to help see things that you are failing to see. They can pinpoint the problem, provide solutions and support you during your weight loss journey. Nothing against personal trainers, but please get your nutrition advice from someone with credible nutrition background. As a dietitian with no sports nutrition or fitness background, I never give exercise tips to my clients as it is not my scope of practice. Sometimes nutrition and exercise may seem simple and straightforward but please consult the right person for effective, appropriate and safe advice!
A lot of people think that being a dietitian I know all the 'secrets' on how to eat right, stay fit, and be healthy. Knowing is one thing but practicing healthy living is a lifestyle that I try to improve on everyday - some days better than others. We all have our challenges but what matters the most is that we move forward with an intention to nourish our body with wholesome food, make physical activity a priority, and do things that fulfills our soul. Weight loss is not that black and white; everyone has a different journey so please be respectful of their personal journey. Don't be too quick to judge, offer advice, or comments towards their weight and be supportive/encouraging if you can.
Here are few more weight related posts I came across that might be interesting to read: