Johnny Morgan, Holston, Denise
BATON ROUGE, La. – Possibly the hardest part of changing eating habits to lose weight is deciding where to begin and how to sustain, says LSU AgCenter Smart Bodies program director Denise Holston-West.
“Are you ready for change? Be honest. Seriously contemplate this question before beginning a weight- loss journey or before attempting to change any behavior,” Holston-West said.
To lose weight, you will need to make permanent lifestyle changes, and it will not always be easy, she said. Start when you are motivated and ready, then set a specific start date. Identify the dietary and behavioral changes you would like to make.
“Plan, plan, plan. If you don’t have a plan, you are guaranteed to fail. This is harsh, but true,” she said.
“Plan how you will incorporate changes into your dietary intake,” she said. “Also, have a plan to deal with obstacles and setbacks along the way because they are sure to happen.”
Holston-West said it is best to set small goals. Set goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited. An example would be, “I will eat at least two servings of vegetables each day this week.”
Make small changes. Don’t try to conquer the world and change most of your eating habits and behaviors all at once.
Holston-West suggests documenting and tracking everything with a journal. Write it down, use a Smartphone app, or enter it into a Web-based system.
“I have some apps that I really stick to, but I did look up some that other people are using,” she said. “I personally like MyFitnessPal because you can put in your weight and your height, and it will give you your calorie range. And you can track your food consumption.”
MyFitnessPal also allows you to scan a food item if it has a barcode, and it allows you to track exercise as well, she said.
Other popular apps are Couch-to-5K, which is a run-walk program, and Lose It, which seems to be No.1 on all the lists, she said.
“Use whatever method works best for you, but make sure to have it accessible and handy at all times,” Holston-West said. “Remember, out of sight, out of mind also applies here. So make sure your plan and journal are visible and, therefore, not easily forgotten.”
Get a support system, Holston-West said. Tell everyone who will listen to you about your goals, plans, successes and setbacks.
“The accountability and support associated with telling loved ones and friends will help keep you on track,” she said. “Reflect on progress, choices, obstacles and triggers, since many of our social interactions revolve around food.”
It’s helpful to focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t, Holston-West. Don’t deprive yourself.
“We suggest the MyPlate.gov website to individuals to give them an idea of how much they should be eating at each meal and each day,” Holston-West said.
MyPlate was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be a guide for individuals and families to use to see what they should be eating, she said. “It’s kind of a visual representation of what should be on your plate at any given time.”
MyPlate focuses on the five main food groups – proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy, she said. “The good thing about MyPlate is that it can actually be individualized for your age and your gender.”
“As we become serious about proper diet and exercise to lose weight, we have to not only have a plan but also a contingency plan,” she said.
Holston-West said many things can be done, but planning is by far the most important.
Many people start diets each year, but instead of creating a new plan and moving forward when they fail, they tend to give up.
“We tend to be too hard on ourselves and set unrealistic goals,” she said. “Planning is what makes it work. I like sushi, so I have to balance it throughout the week with my meal plan so I can enjoy it.
“Almost anything can fit within a healthy dietary regimen as long as it is part of your overall plan and done so in moderation and in balance with other foods and physical activities,” she said.
She warns that following some of the fad diets could cause serious, long-term problems.
“There are the low-carb, high-protein diets that are popular right now,” she said. “They may offer favorable results, but I don’t think they are sustainable. And it’s arguable as to whether these diets are healthy.”
Holston-West said it’s not wise to cut out certain food groups because every food group will provide specific, essential nutrients to the body. So when you deplete that food group, you’re losing something.
“A lot of times on the high-protein diets, we will focus on the lean proteins. But that’s not the case when someone is eating high-protein foods all the time,” she said. “They may have higher fat intake, which may cause some cholesterol issues you may need to watch out for.”
Holston-West warns that once you come off those diets, chances are you’ll gain all that weight back.