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How To Lose Weight


Losing weight is all about will power. Hopefully a diagnosis will give you the incentive to achieve a healthy - or at least healthier - weight.

As you know, the key to weight loss is to consistently burn more calories than you consume by eating and drinking. Studies show this is not so easy because we tend to underestimate the amount of calories we consume and overestimate the amount of exercise. Jane Brody, science and health writer at the New York Times, advises finding a healthy lifestyle rather than go on a diet. (To read her exellent article about the subject, click here offsite link.)

To help lose weight, consider the following tips. Speak with your doctor about which idea or ideas may be best for you. If one doesn't work for you, try another:

  • Keep track of what you eat.  Studies indicate that food diaries help people reduce their food intake.
    • A food diary doesn't have to be in any particular form or in any particular place such as in a notebook or on a computer. Include what you eat, the amount and the number of servings. American Cancer Society provides information about how to construct and keep a diary. Click here offsite link
    • Alternatively, just before going to bed, write down what you did right during the day (such as using a smaller plate which helps people to eat less), and what could use improving (such as you didn't take the stairs.)  Writing your mistakes helps decrease the stress by getting it out of your mind.
  • Consider working with a dietitian/nutritionist who will create a plan that is custom fit for you.  A pro can create a meal plan just for you that takes into account your food preferences and eating triggers. You also meet with the person periodically to fine tune the program. You can find a dietitian/nutritionist who specilizes in weight control at a website of  the American Dietitic Association: offsite link. Click on "Find A Registered Dietitian." (For information about choosing a dietitian, click here. For information about dietitians and insurance, click here.)
  • If you want to try losing weight on your own, some resources to consider are:
    • An inexpensive calorie counter. To find an inexpensive calorie counter, check local stores and/or search on "calorie counter" in your favorite search engine.
    • Free web sites which list calories by brand. For instance, offsite link
    • Free sites list calories burned per activity. For instance:
    • Sites which give you an idea of how long it will take you to reach your goal. (It is likely to take longer than you think). For instance: offsite link. (You can easily adjust the formula by decreasing intake or increasing activity).
    • Sites where you bet about your weight. You make money if you meet your goal, and lose it if you don't. For instance, see HealthyWage. offsite link
  • If you decide to join a weight loss program
    • When looking at weight loss programs, consider:
      • The out of pocket cost for the program and the food (whether supplied by the program or purchased on your own)
      • How detailed a plan the program provides
      • Whether you would do better with pre-cooked meals instead of cooking your own
      • Whether you do better with peer support such as would be found at a weigh-in meeting with fellow dieters
      • Whether you prefer one-on-one counselor support
      • What you are likely to do once the diet ends
    • US News and World Report ranks diet plans. See: offsite link
    • Mayo Clinic has an online diet available for a fee. See: offsite link
    • A survey by Consumer Reports found that 83 percent of people who successfully lost weight and kept it off for a year or more said that they lost the weight entirely on their own without the help of a weight-loss program or diet pills. There are also studies indicating that it is harder for many people to stick with a do-it-yourself approach than a more formal one. There is no right or wrong. The key is what is best for you taking into account your personality and circumstances. 

Following are a few tips that dieters have passed on to us that may help you lose weight:

  • Set a target weight: a healthy weight for your body type.
    • Talk with your doctor about what weight would be ideal for you.
    • Your ideal weight takes into account the amount of body fat in relation to your overall body mass. Merely stepping on a scale only tells you your weight. It does not show how much of your body is fat, or where the fat is located. When determining health risks these factors are more important than your weight alone. To get an idea of your Body Mass Index (BMI), look at the free BMI Index calculator at offsite link
  • Declare your plan publicly. 
    • Let family and friends know what you are doing. 
    • Ask for their help (for instance, by serving healthy foods when you are invited, or picking healthy restaurants).
  • Arrange your environment so it helps. For instance:
    • Have fruit or other healthy snacks handy. 
    • Eliminate unhealthy foods from your home, or put them in out-of-the-way places.
  • Track your progress. The national weight loss programs have tools to help. There are also free tools available on the internet. For example, offsite link
  • When talking on the phone, stand up and walk around. 
  • Smell vanilla before a meal. The aroma apparently tricks your brain into thinking that you are eating more than you actually are. The result is that you feel content sooner, which means that you eat less food.
  • Measure servings instead of guessing.
  • If you are tempted to eat between meals:
    • Drink a big glass of luke warm water before snacking.
    • Dab a little bit of perfume under your nose.
  • Eat fewer calories. 
    • For example, start meals with low calorie beginnings such as clear broth.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables. In addition to their health benefits, they contain fewer calories than most other foods. 
  • Eat on plates which encourage you to eat less. For example:
    • Lunch size plates instead of dinner size plates.
    • Black plates and blue plates seem to be a cue for eating less. Yellow and red seem to increase it.
    • A company called Portion Doctor sells portion control plates which are meant to be cues for keeping portions under control. See: offsite link
  • When you eat fatty foods such as meat, watch the portion. A portion is equal to a deck of cards.
  • Use olive oil, granola oil or similar oils instead of heavy oils.
  • Do not eat directly from the package - especially ice cream packages.
  • Only eat at restaurants that healthy choices and moderate serving sizes. (If you eat too much, increase your physical activity for a few days).  Ask for sauces and gravy on the side.
  • Plan meals around your goals that you can fit into your schedule - and shop accordingly (with a list). For example, if time is short, purchase pre-chopped vegetables, stir-fry meat strips and frozen brown rice. Stir-fry the meat, add plenty of veggies with a little broth and while that steams, microwave the rice. Season to taste.
  • Drinking a large glass of water before each meal helps to suppress appetite. The more space in your stomach that you fill with water, the less room there is for food.
    • Temperature matters: ice water is not as much of a space filler. Luke warm water is better.
    • To make drinking water more interesting, try flavoring a pitcher of plain water with herbs such as mint or basil, or slices of lemons or oranges, or cucumber.
    • Avoid sodas and other carbonated or sweetened drinks since they usually contain high sugar contents and would carry extra calories which will defeat your  weight losing purpose.
  • Keep in mind that some beverages have more calories than junk food. According to researchers at Purdue University, an average smoothie has 470 calories, an average glass of wine has 165 calories, a 12-ounce soda has 152 calories. 
  • Ask a friend to text you daily with a supportive text.
  • Use a smart phone app such as Lose It! by FitNow.  The app lets you set goals, counts calories and factors in exercise. 
  • Check out Mayo Clinic's resources for weight management: For instance, free information at: offsite link. Mayo clinic also published a book: Mayo Clinic: Healthy Weight For Everybody.

A survey of members of the American College of Sports Medicine's National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) resulted in the following 7 habits of successful weight loss maintainers:

  1. High levels of physical activity: more than one half of NWCR members expend more than 2,000 calories per week.
  2. Limit television watching: about 63% of NWCR members report watching less than 10 hours per week of television.
  3. Low-calorie, low-fat diet: NWCR members report consuming 1,380 calories per day, with less than 30% of calories from fat.
  4. Consistent diet: NWCR members tend to eat the same foods regularly and do not ''splurge'' on high-calorie foods on weekends, holidays or other special occasions.
  5. Breakfast consumption: at least 78% of NWCR members report eating breakfast daily, which may help curb hunger and overeating later in the day.
  6. High dietary restraint and low disinhibition: NWCR members report exerting high levels of control over their eating, and they rarely overeat in response to internal (e.g., emotional) or external (e.g., availability of highly palatable food) cues.
  7. Self-monitoring: more than one half of NWCR members weigh themselves at least weekly and track their daily food intake.

Source: The National Weight Control Registry: A Study of 'Successful Losers. offsite link


  • If you are in chemotherapy treatment, check with your doctor before starting a weight loss program. Your weight is one of the factors frequently included in determining dosage. A decrease in weight can result in greater toxicity.
  • Before making a substantial change in your dietary habits, speak with your doctor. A change in diet may have an effect on medications you are taking.

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