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How to lose weight: Diet specifics

Here are specific recommendations for losing weight and keeping it off. If you haven't already done so, first look at the general principles of weight loss. For more help, call my office for an appointment: (818) 790-4300

As I've noted, scientific studies looking at large groups of patients shows that no single diet or regimen works better than another. But we're all unique, and you'll find some things are best for you. Rather than a magic bullet, the best strategy is to investigate what has worked for others. Try out various approaches and see what works for you.

The critical first principle is don't gain more weight. Weight is a lot easier to put on than take off. One you have it, your body resists losing weight with every force available.

Second, figure out if you are overweight and, if so, by how much. If your body mass index (BMI) exceeds 25, you are overweight and should certainly not gain more. A BMI over 30 means obesity. If your BMI is under 25, you don't need to lose weight unless your waist exceeds 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men).

Given that you do intend to lose weight, let's begin.

Initial tips

I discuss exercise here. If you have the time to gradually increase the amount you exercise up to two hours a day, you will almost certainly lose a substantial amount of weight, along with significant other health benefits. (This is the major approach in the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser.") Because exercising for even half an hour a day is a struggle for so many, suffice it to say that not exercising at all makes shedding pounds much more difficult. Up to a point, more exercise is better, assuming you do it properly.

Keep a log of what you eat and how you feel immediately after the meal and an hour later. Writing down your food (including portion size and calories) is a proven weight-loss strategy, and recording your reactions to food may help you make better choices. Also, record your emotional state if you get a sudden craving. Diet-logging software and web sites make recording food intake much simpler. (To find these sites, google "food log".)

Weigh yourself regularly, at least once a week. Daily fluctuations of 3-4 pounds are normal and rarely reflect true weight gain or loss.

Unless you're on a special kidney diet, eat a high-protein breakfast every day. This will increase your energy and alertness, and you're less apt to crave snacks later in the morning. Breakfast cereal with fruit and nonfat or soy milk is a good choice. Another is the meal-replacement shake I describe below.

Many of my patients have lost weight without changing their diet at all. They shrink the portion size of what they eat: less of the same foods they usually consume.

Diet strategies

Let's start with the stuff to avoid:
Next are foods you should eat in moderation: some, but not often or a lot:
Here are the foods to eat more of:
Meal-replacement shake

Some people do well if they replace one or two meals a day with a dietary shake. I personally use this approach. Many people like the SlimFast line of products. I make my shakes in the blender. Here is my current formula, which you should modify to meet your needs:

  1. Eight ounces of plain soy milk (not flavored or sweetened)
  2. Two ounces of plain kefir (unflavored and unsweetened), a source of probiotic bacteria
  3. A heaping teaspoon of ground flax seed, for fiber and omega-3 fatty acids
  4. Four to six ounces of nonfat cottage cheese
  5. Four to six ounces of chunks of fresh fruit. What I use depends upon the season but variably includes banana, melon, strawberries, blueberries, mango, kiwi fruit, grapes, etc.
  6. A plastic scoopful (60-80 cc size) of whatever protein shake powder I can find at Costco

Avoid the kefir and cottage cheese if you're lactose intolerant.

I buy everything at Costco, except I get the kefir and flax seed at the supermarket. I put the first five ingredients into the blender jar and turn it on at low speed, covering with the lid to prevent splashes. After a few seconds I lift the lid and add the scoop of protein powder, blending until everything is mixed. Banana, mango, and blueberries may thicken the mixture, so sometimes I need to add an ounce or two of water to get everything to blend together. The total volume is just under a quart.

This shake makes a good breakfast. If you put it in a sturdy plastic to-go container with a few ice cubes, then in an insulated bag, it lasts without refrigeration until lunch.

The flax seed sticks to the side of the blender jar and is hard to clean out, even with a good dish brush. But letting the blender jar sit full of water for a few minutes loosens the flax, and then it's a breeze.

Last updated Fri, Jun 19, 2015

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©2011, James Gagné, MD