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Weight Loss: Eight Basics to Consider When Choosing a Diet Plan

by Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez

It’s happened almost more times than you can count. You think you’ve found your perfect match, and things seem so promising at first—after all, you’re getting the results you wanted. Sooner or later, though, everything starts going downhill. You don’t have the control you thought you had, and you’ve lost the progress you were making. No, we’re not talking about a relationship…we’re talking about weight loss! Many Americans want to shed pounds and live more healthily, but they’re stuck in a self-perpetuating pattern of dead-end diets.

According to Lavinia Rodriguez, it’s time to consciously improve your odds—and she has some concrete advice that will get you out of your rut.

“Despite being told that most dieting attempts—90 percent, in fact—fail, people are still susceptible to falling for quick weight loss promises that have no chance of succeeding in the long run,” says Rodriguez, author of Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management (iUniverse, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-4401-0228-8, $14.95, www.fatmatters.com). “Clearly, the desire to be healthier is there…but the know-how isn’t.”

So why, exactly, do so many of us have histories of going on and off diets, over and over again? Rodriguez thinks the answer can be boiled down to optimism: We just can’t resist giving in to that little voice in our minds that says, I’ll stick with it this time, or, This diet seems different—I bet it’ll work each time the latest weight loss fad appears.

“It’s time to pair your good intentions with some solid know-how,” Rodriguez states. “Forewarned truly is forearmed. Once you know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to weight loss, you’ll finally have the tools you need to choose a healthy lifestyle to which you can commit for a lifetime!”

If you’re ready to make your short-term dieting results permanent, then read on for eight of Rodriguez’s suggestions:

Identify your weaknesses (and be honest). The first thing you should do before embarking on a weight loss program is to be honest with yourself. If you have a long history of on-and-off dieting, it’s time to face the fact that the types of diets you’ve been on don’t work. You might not have thought about it this way before, but those programs may have been very similar to each other, even though they had different names (i.e., The Low Carb Diet, The Blood Type Diet, The Grapefruit Diet).

“Look at what each of your past diets have in common,” Rodriguez suggests. “For example, were they stringent diets, did they eliminate particular foods completely, or did they not include exercise? The answers you come up with are probably things you should avoid in the future. Oh, and if you are a first-time dieter, learn through the experience of others. To date, a lot of research has been done showing that most dieting attempts fail and that fad diets show particularly dismal results. Don’t go down the same road that many others have found to be a dead end.”

Know what you really need to lose. Most people who want to lose weight want to do it fast—and the dieting industry is ready to oblige them. What these programs don’t always tell you is what kind of weight you’ll be losing. Did you know that the lower number on your scale could be water loss or muscle loss…not fat loss?

“People often confuse weight loss with fat loss, and that’s a problem,” Rodriguez explains. “Just because you’ve dropped some pounds doesn’t mean that your body has rid itself of that quantity of fat. Actually, the faster the weight is lost, the more likely it is to be water or muscle loss. Ultimately, though, it’s fat that people want to lose. And the only sustainable way to do that is to burn more energy than you are taking in.”

Focus on behaviors, not numbers. Believe it or not, successful weight loss has something in common with brushing your teeth: Both are part of your lifestyle, not temporary tasks. Your teeth don’t stay magically clean after one brush, and you don’t stay healthy by getting to your goal weight and then going back to your old habits.

“In order for weight loss to be effective and lasting, you’ve got to stop worrying so much about the results and focus on the process,” Rodriguez asserts. “You don’t get preoccupied by what the toothpaste and floss are actually doing to your teeth, and it’s just as unhelpful to focus on what each little action is doing to your weight. Instead, trust that if you perform healthy behaviors like portion control, increased activity, and better nutrition, you’ll get the desired results. If you focus on the behaviors of eating well and being active, the body will take care of the rest.”

Make sure you’re active. There’s no way around it: Aerobic exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle. For one thing, maintaining a healthy weight is as much about burning energy as it is about limiting your calorie intake, and for another, exercise helps keep your body and its processes fit and strong.

“Many people don’t exercise because they don’t enjoy it,” points out Rodriguez. “You don’t have to join a running club or take a spinning class. You could dance, hike, or play tag with your kids. Also, find creative ways to move more throughout the day.  If you have to spend large chunks of time working at a computer, for example, take regular breaks to move your body in some simple way, such as going up and down a flight of stairs or doing a few push-ups.”

Don’t let your calendar terrorize you. You may think that vowing to lose ten pounds in six weeks, say, will be a good motivator. Well, maybe…but it might also leave you feeling terrible about yourself if you don’t meet it. When it comes to losing weight, it’s best to set wellness goals but leave concrete time limits out of it.

“You’ll find that many fad diets encourage you to set a hard-and-fast deadline for achieving the results you want,” Rodriguez asserts. “And sometimes, this strategy may yield short-term results. But it can also evoke feelings of guilt and shame when you slip up or fail. It’s much better to accept where you are today, set aside the past, and focus on what can be done now. If you approach weight loss in this manner, you’ll be constantly working toward a healthier life. Remember, some progress is better than no progress at all, which is what will happen if you give in and give up because you think you can’t hack a particular program!”

Say no to fad diets. Despite your initial impulses, it’s important to avoid the temptation of turning to fad diets. Yes, it’s natural and understandable to be excited by the latest program that promises to melt pounds. However, points out Rodriguez, you need to remind yourself that rigid, stringent fad diets usually aren’t healthy, and they’re not a long-term fix.

“The body can’t lose fat as quickly as many people expect it to, so these rigid diets actually promise something your body isn’t built to deliver,” she explains. “Furthermore, they cause psychological deprivation: Your mind feels deprived and becomes preoccupied with the foods you’re avoiding. So even if you trick yourself into thinking that subsisting on celery and kale is a good idea, you’ll be back at the drive-through window sooner or later—and any temporary success you experience won’t last.”

Embrace sustainability. Unless you want to lose all of the healthy ground you’ve gained, it’s important to make sure that the eating and exercise plan you go on is one that you can follow for the rest of your life. (Again, that’s the fatal flaw of fad diets.) Rodriguez recommends designing a program that you not only feel comfortable and satisfied with, but that doesn’t require others’ assistance.

“Becoming independent in working toward your fitness goals is an extremely important component of success,” she confirms. “It sounds simple, but you need to make sure that you can shop for yourself and prepare your own food, for example. Also remember that you’ll need to be satisfied with what you’re eating and how you’re exercising, because if you’re not, your willpower will take you only so far.”

Acknowledge that you have limits. No matter how much you diet and work out, you may never have your favorite celebrity’s body. That doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you’re less than—just that you have your own body type and genetics (and no personal trainer and stylist).

“It’s important to realize that everyone is different, and everyone’s body burns fat at different rates,” Rodriguez says. “Weight loss isn’t about how many pounds you should lose, but how much you can lose, taking into account your activity level. You don’t know the exact rate at which your body burns fat, so instead of focusing on a certain goal, pay attention to what you’re doing to help your body lose those unwanted pounds.  If you’re eating well and staying active each day, your body will reward you with the fastest fat burning it’s capable of, and it will show you how low its weight can go.”

“If you take these tips into account the next time you want to lose weight, you’ll be much better equipped to weed out programs that aren’t going to do you any favors in the long run,” Rodriguez concludes. “It’s time to get off of the yo-yo dieting merry-go-round for good and embark on a long-term, committed relationship with a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle!”
About the Author:
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a clinical psychologist and an expert trained in treating eating issues and weight problems. For more than thirty years, she has observed how people set themselves up for failure through unrealistic diets and exercise programs, as well as through buying into out-and-out scams designed to take advantage of individuals who seriously want to improve their health and lives. She is concerned about people being misled regarding the most effective ways to lose and manage weight over a lifetime.

Over the years, Dr. Rodriguez has treated many people, has written articles on the subjects of eating disorders in particular and weight loss in general, and has written a book titled Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management.

For more information, please visit www.fatmatters.com.

About the Book:
Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management (iUniverse, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-4401-0228-8, $14.95, www.fatmatters.com) is available at bookstores nationwide and through major online booksellers.

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