A Resource from the
American College of Preventive Medicine
A Guide for Patients
Steps to Healthy Fat Loss
When it comes to "weight” loss or
"weight” gain, one thing is for certain … the calorie is king. Calories, or
kcals as they are often referred to, are a measure of energy.
We consume energy as food and
Our body uses some of this energy
for all of its processes, like digestion, cell repair, etc.
We use energy for everything we
Energy that is not needed is
primarily stored in fat cells.
The amount of energy we store in
fat cells is an important part of our body weight. But, it is important to
remember that about half of the weight of our body is water. When we speak of
healthy "weight” loss, we really mean fat loss.
The first principle of fat loss
is: Forget about diets and dieting. Instead, focus on healthy eating --
increase whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits and reduce the amount of
high-fat, high-cholesterol-containing meat, dairy, and eggs that you consume.
The second principle of fat loss
is: The amount of fat we store is related to the balance between the calories
we consume and the calories we use as energy. It’s like a balance scale –
"calories in” on one side, "calories out” on the other side.
To reduce fat stored, all we have
to do is tip the balance the other way by taking in fewer calories than we use
during the average day. Sounds simple enough, but we all know that it is not
simple when we try to do it.
We have a couple of things working
against us. First, our body is designed to favor fat storage. It’s a survival
mechanism because food has never been as readily available as it is today. When
we eat less, our metabolism slows down so we burn fewer calories. Eating a
smaller amount of food is not the answer. Second, for every pound we lose, our
body needs a few less calories to function and move. So, each pound of weight
loss becomes a little harder.
The reality is sobering. Having
too much fat stored in your body contributes to a lot of health problems,
including most chronic diseases. It often shortens life, and it makes life
harder and sometimes less enjoyable if you have to give up activities you used
Finally – the good news!
First, losing fat is about a
healthier lifestyle that you live every day. It’s about learning to eat
healthier and becoming more active -- small changes that really do add up.
Second, and most important, you
don’t have to lose a lot of fat weight to have a big impact on your health. A
5-10% weight loss from fat can reduce your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
and improve your cholesterol, and may even get you off some prescription
medicines. 5-10% isn’t much: if you weigh 200 pounds, it’s just 10 to 20
Third, your healthier lifestyle
will have many other benefits beyond losing a few pounds, and you will feel
better and everything will be just a little easier to do.
So, how do you get started?
The Simple Steps to Losing
Make a commitment to yourself.
Do this in writing, like a contract to yourself. List the reasons you want
to lose weight once and for all. After you have completed the next three steps,
add them to your personal contract. Write down your beginning weight and a few
measurements if you’d like (e.g., waist, thighs).
Keep a food and activity diary
for a few days. Try to write down everything you eat, and if possible the
situation (e.g., breakfast at home, watching TV, etc). Track your physical
activity too -- time spent walking, sitting, lying, other physical activity.
Ask your doctor for a log to do this, or where you could get one.
Reflect on your current
lifestyle. Write down some things that make lifestyle changes
challenging (e.g., travel, friends, injuries, etc). Think about ways to handle
these challenges. Identify a few opportunities that you may have that could
Set a few short-term goals for
actions, not pounds. They must be realistic, specific and something that
you know you can do. Set one goal for increasing physical activity and one for
cutting a few calories. For example, aim to walk 15 minutes three days next
week and cut down on sodas at work from three to two (have water instead).
Establish specific rewards for achieving goals.
Talk to your doctor about your
plans. Ask about health risks that your weight may be causing and ask for
advice to help you reach your goals.
Find some support. Ask a
friend or family member to share your plans, perhaps join you in your journey.
Continually "check in” with
yourself to monitor progress. Revisit your goals weekly, or at least every
two weeks. Evaluate what is working and what is not. Adjust your goals and
plans as necessary. Add new goals as you continue on your journey. Reward
yourself for success; accept setbacks as part of the process. Be patient.
Gradual weight loss is more likely to be lasting.
Ask your doctor about resources
and programs that could help you. This would include health
educators and dieticians, as well as scientifically-based weight-loss support
programs that are available in your community.
Remember you are on a lifelong
journey to better health. It becomes an attitude about life. Just thinking
more about what you eat, looking for opportunities to be a little more active,
and being optimistic about being more in control of your body will carry you a
long way toward a healthier weight.
For other information and useful
links, visit the American College of Preventive Medicine website at www.acpm.org.
American College of Preventive Medicine. All Rights