A Resource from the American College of
A GUIDE FOR
Simple 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 drink.
- Our body uses some of this energy for all of its processes,
like digestion, cell repair, etc.
- We use energy for everything we do.
- 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 so 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 things you used to
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 pounds.
- 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 we 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. 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 that 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 more optimistic about being more in control of your body will carry
you a long way toward a healthier weight.
Click here to download a printable version
of the Adult Obesity Patient Guide.
For more information
on these steps, as well as links to other useful websites, visit the American
College of Preventive Medicine website at www.acpm.org.
American College of Preventive Medicine. All Rights Reserved