By Jana Klauer, M.D.
Achieving a weight loss goal is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Besides the health benefits, which are considerable, there is a sense of, “I did it. I lost the weight and I look great!” Bravo! After the hard work of losing weight, what you definitely don’t want to do is regain the weight. However, you'll need to work at keeping the weight off for about a year while your body gets used to metabolic changes. After that, staying at your new weight should be easier, but at first you'll have to deal with the fact that your caloric needs are lower than they were when you were heavier. You'll have to adjust your intake accordingly. The good news, though, is that there are behaviors and dietary measures that can help keep you at your new healthy (and attractive!) weight.
Learn from others.
Only 1 in 6 adults are able to maintain a 10% weight reduction for 1 year. The National Weight Control Registry is a database of individuals who have lost 60 lbs. or more and kept it off for a minimum of 5 years. We can all learn something from these men and women. What do they do?
90% exercise for 1 hour daily.
78% eat breakfast every day.
75% weigh themselves weekly.
62% watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week.
Keeping weight under control is tough because we are surrounded by so much food and it’s easy to become sedentary. So take charge of your life! Get organized. Start your exercise plan first because that is the anchor. Exercising builds mitochondria (energy factories) in your muscles, enabling you to burn more calories.
Keep carbs low.
What you eat matters, and new evidence suggests that the amount and type of dietary carbohydrates make a big difference in whether lost weight is regained. All weight loss causes a slowing of the metabolic rate; dietary composition determines which metabolic pathways and hormones are activated. A recent study done by a national team of researchers, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved overweight subjects who had lost 15% of their body weight. The researchers looked at which of three diets might be best for maintaining weight loss. The choices were: (1) a low-fat diet with 20% protein, (2) a low-glycemic index diet with 20% protein, and (3) a very low-carbohydrate diet with 30% protein (Atkins diet). All diets contained the same number of calories.
This well-designed study used state-of–the-art measurements to track metabolic changes with each of the diets. All participants were required to follow each diet for 4 weeks. At the beginning and end of each 4-week period, metabolic rates were measured. The results revealed that the low-fat diet lowered metabolic rate much more than the other two diets – predicting a likelihood of weight regain with a low-fat diet. Both the low glycemic diet and the Atkins diet, because they contained only slowly digested carbohydrates and additional protein (in the Atkins diet) caused the body to expend more energy for digestion, preventing the drop seen with the low-fat diet. Thus, they offered a metabolic advantage over a low-fat diet, accounting for a difference of approximately 300 calories a day or the amount of calories in a one-hour workout!
In general it’s important to keep in mind that, while there are genetic determinants of how we digest and metabolize different foods, limiting the amount of starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, white potato, white rice) is relatively easy compared to all the work involved in losing weight.
In summary: To keep weight off I recommend the following plan:
Make daily exercise a priority. Aim for 1 hour.
Don’t skip meals. Three meals and an afternoon snack work for most people.
Eliminate the starchy carbohydrates.
Jana Klauer, M.D., is the author of "The Park Avenue Nutritionist's Plan" and "How the Rich Get Thin." She was trained in internal medicine and rehabilitation medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Klauer also holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Please visit her web site at http://www.janaklauermd.com/