Changing your diet and exercise to shed pounds can be a difficult and slow process. It’s frustrating not to see results when you’ve skipped out on your favorite ice cream and afternoon snacks. According to a new survey released last month, obese and overweight Americans who have tried losing weight report the greatest satisfaction from weight loss surgery and prescription weight loss medications than with other self-regulated lifestyle modifications.
Keep in mind this study was funded by Eisai, the pharmaceutical drug company that markets Belviq, a major weight-loss prescription drug. Jason Wang, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator from Eisai, was quick to conclude that “this finding may mean that diet and exercise alone just don’t work for a lot of people.”
Here’s why we don’t quite agree with that: People are drawn to surgeries and diet medications because they provide quick and visible results. Rachel Berman, a registered dietician and director of health for About.com, points out that more than half of the participants in this study (58.4 percent to be exact) who are obese weren’t taking any steps to lose weight at the time of the survey. “Maybe it’s because it’s a lot of work to revamp your diet and get moving. If it were so easy, everyone would do it.”
Berman warns that weight-loss surgery can be a real danger for those who aren’t willing to make post-op changes. “Ignoring post-surgery dietary guidelines can result in deficiencies in important nutrients like iron or calcium. In addition, surgery and prescriptions for youth are becoming more and more prevalent, which is fairly controversial since long-term success and possible complications aren’t fully known.”
She suggests that weight-loss surgery is worth considering if you are over 18, lifestyle changes alone aren’t delivering results, and you have a BMI of greater than 40 (or greater than 35 alongside a weight-related health condition). The key here: You have tried and tried again with self-regulated methods like diet and exercise, and your health is still at a high risk level.
“All of this being said—and this may be surprising—I appreciate that people get motivated by quick results, and that’s why I’m not opposed to a balanced lower-in-calorie diet plan to jumpstart weight loss.”
Her recommendation is a great way to see results fast without defaulting to surgery or pills: Meet with a dietitian first to ensure your diet provides the nutrients you need and that the plan is sustainable. Here are her top five tips to catalyze weight loss in a healthy, natural way:
1. Keep track of your choices. Write down what you’re eating and when. Being mindful is so powerful.
2. Manage emotional eating. Ask yourself: “Am I really hungry? Or am I eating for a reason like stress or anger?” Learn how to replace emotional eating behaviors with other activities like walking or taking a hot bath.
3. You are more than a number on the scale. Don’t let that number control your life! Instead, just keep doing the next healthy thing, one step at a time. Also track progress in your energy level, sleep quality, fit of your clothing, how you feel, concentration level, and mood. Scale weight is only one minor way to measure success and results.
4. Make it fun! Keep your journey enjoyable by getting your friends involved in trying a new workout class together, testing recipes from a healthy cookbook, or growing a garden together. Find exercises, food choices, and people that make your lifestyle so fun you can’t not keep it up.
5. Spread the love. Be a model for others. Ultimately, you are changing your habits for you, but it can also be very motivating to serve as an inspiration for your children, your family, and friends.