The Medical Minute: Maintain weight-loss goals throughout the year

January 12, 2011

By: Janelle D. McLeod

The beginning of the New Year is a time when we start to think about getting back on track with our eating and exercise goals that may have slipped during the holiday season. The following is a list of strategies that may help you prevent cravings and overeating in order to maintain your weight-loss goals throughout the year.

Eat regularly: Avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals makes you hungrier later. This sets you up to overeat and choose foods that are convenient and quick but not always healthy.

Add healthy snacks: A healthy snack between meals is appropriate if there is going to be more than 4 hours between your meals. Examples: 1 oz. portion of nuts, 1 oz. of cheese and a couple whole grain crackers, one half an apple and 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter, raw veggies and 2 Tbsp. of hummus.

Use a smaller plate: Fill half of it with nonstarchy vegetables at lunch and dinner.

Eat more fiber: Fiber foods keep you feeling full and satisfied. Read the labels of whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice and choose the ones that have more fiber. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits instead of canned or juice.

Eat fewer simple sugars and refined/processed products: Cakes, cookies, sweets, white rice, crackers, pretzels, and snack chips may cause a reaction that makes you crave more snacks or sugary foods.

Include a good source of protein and healthy fat with each meal: Protein and fat are digested more slowly and give satiety to meals. Choose lean meats like fish, skinless chicken or turkey breast more often than higher fat meats. Include good fats with your meals like avocado, olives, olive oil, low fat dairy products, and small amounts of nuts.

Cut back on caffeine: Caffeine wreaks havoc with blood sugar levels, increasing the chance of overeating later.

Cut back on alcohol: Alcohol is full of calories and can thwart your weight loss efforts.

Focus on flavor: Add full flavored herbs/seasonings/foods to meals. Well seasoned foods with herbs and other low-calorie additions encourage you to eat more slowly. Try roasted red or yellow peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh ginger, balsamic vinegar, lemon or orange zest, fresh herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, Tabasco sauce, fresh mint or salsa for a satisfying flavor kick.

Create a flavor-savoring mood at mealtimes. Set the table in style. Arrange the plate attractively. Light candles.

Take your time eating: Slow down, put your utensil on the table between bites and focus on enjoying the flavors of the meal as well as the company. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. Eating quickly can cause the uncomfortable overstuffed, holiday full feeling and provide you with unwanted extra calories.

Break old patterns: Practice stress reduction techniques to avoid turning to food for comfort. If it is not a planned meal or snack time, get out of the kitchen and go for a walk, read a book, call a friend, play an instrument or start a craft project.

Keep “problem foods” out of the house: You are less likely to eat it if it isn’t there.

Legalize all foods: When sweets are strictly forbidden, you end up craving them more and often bingeing on them later. Enjoy a small dessert or favorite item when you truly crave it or at a special occasion. Eat it slowly and savor it without guilt!

Add exercise or activity daily: If you don’t know what to do for exercise or exercise hurts, consider being evaluated by an exercise physiologist or trainer. They can set up a routine specially designed to meet your personal needs and goals. Below are just a few of the reasons exercise is so important to our health:

-- Boosts mood

-- Increases energy

-- Decreases stress

-- Increases mental focus

-- Increases strength and stamina

-- Combats chronic disease

-- Promotes better sleep

-- Promotes weight loss

To be successful at establishing lifelong healthy changes, make one change at a time. Continue working on that change until you feel comfortable that you have incorporated the change into your regular routine. Don’t be hard on yourself. Change isn’t easy. Keep a positive outlook and remember we can’t be perfect all of the time. If you need help, seek the guidance of your primary care physician or a registered dietitian to keep you on track.

To learn about surgical weight loss, contact the Penn State Hershey Surgical Weight Loss Program, at 1-877-609-6848, or visit us online.

Janelle D. McLeod is coordinator of the Penn State Hershey Surgical Weight Loss program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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Last Updated January 17, 2011