With so many diet trends and fads being promoted, and so many medications on the market as well as medical procedures out there, we thought we’d speak with a few experts on how to truly lose weight and keep it off.
Photography by Sara Edwards Neal
TOP PHOTO: Lenser and Candice Kuddes, APRN, with UALR’s Health Services
The formula hasn’t changed: diet and exercise. However, their words of wisdom may help you view — and do — things a bit differently.
“The secret to maintaining a healthy weight is balance. You must balance your food intake with exercise,” said Dr. Bennie Prince.
Prince is the coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s (UALR) Health, Human Performance and Sport Management program. And as a senior instructor in the department, which has undergraduate and graduate programs in health education, K—12 health and physical education and exercise science to name a few, she must practice what she teaches.
“The problem with diets is that it’s easy to be disciplined for a short period of time, but most of us will eventually go back to our bad habits,” she said. “Do you think you’ll be happy living the rest of your life without sugar, fat, fruit, etc.? The answer is no. So as soon as you get off the diet, you’ll gain the weight back. Doctors can prescribe pills, but often there are side effects; and do you want to take a pill every day for the rest of your life? No. So it all comes down to behavior.”
To lose weight successfully, Prince said, you’ll need to take a proactive, realistic approach.
“I love sweets, so a diet that never allows me to have a cookie, a mint or ice cream is unrealistic,” she said. “I’ve exercised my entire life, so it’s pretty much ingrained.” And if she’s planning to have dessert, she makes certain to “step up a bit,” exercise wise. This is key.
“To effectively lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, you’ll need to balance the scales of eating and exercise: pick healthy foods and control portions. This has to become a habit. Once proper diet and exercise become a way of life, you’ll recognize that you feel better. When you don’t feel a loss [not eating fatty or calorie-laden foods], it’s become a way of life.”
If you do choose to follow a diet, such as the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, etc., be certain it’s one you can maintain for life or that it sets a precedence for how you’ll eat long term.
Price offers the following practical advice:
- Remove high fat, sugar- and salt-laden foods from your home and workplace.
- Shop with a grocery list, and not when you’re hungry.
- Learn stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga and visualization.
- Avoid buffets and all-you-can-eat restaurants.
- When drinking, add ice as your drink gets low, and choose drinks that are lower in calories. For instance, drink wine versus frozen daiquiris and the like.
“Focus on your overall strategy for weight loss. Exercise mindfulness in how you eat and what you eat. Take an example from athletes. They have to visualize their goals and see themselves achieving them,” Price advised. “Focus on your strategy and game plan. Visualize where you want to be, and make a lifelong commitment to eat properly and exercise regularly.
Karl Lenser serves as UALR’s employee wellness coordinator. This is a new program aimed at helping the university’s employees improve their lives by getting healthier.
“We started by building awareness through education and by motivating the faculty and staff to get moving, eat better and manage stress,” Lenser said. “Each month, we address various issues through educational talks; thus far, we discussed nutrition, lower back care, how to improve your sleep and winning the weight loss war.”
Lenser addresses the weight loss war on a regular basis, offering structured, six-week exercise programs and one-on-one consultations to help individuals reach their specific fitness goals. He, like Prince, suggests a realistic and balanced approach.
“I like cookies and ice cream,” he said. “But I obviously cannot eat them daily. I use a 90/10 rule. Ninety percent of the time, I eat complex carbohydrates, lean protein and food that is low in fat. I indulge in less healthy food or indulge my sweet tooth only 10 percent of the time.”
He said the key to effective exercise is consistency. “I’ve exercised for years. The key to maintenance is consistency. Take it slow and steady. Most people go crazy and exercise really hard and intensely and they burn out. Smart people exercise steadily, four or five days per week — with no vacation breaks. Creating a structured, planned workout schedule is key. And while many people feel they don’t have time, it’s important that you make time — be selfish for an hour or so every day. It’s important that you make the time, whether it’s at 5 a.m. or 8 p.m., it’s worth it.”
He suggests simplifying things. Researchers have found there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So, Lenser, said, if an individual sets a goal to lose 1 pound per week — a realistic goal — break it down.
“You’ll need to use 500 calories per day. Burn 250 calories by exercising and eliminate 250 calories from your diet. For many this means not drinking a soda or not eating a donut or candy bar. For others, it can mean eating smaller portions.”
Burning 250 calories, for most individuals, he said, is about 45 minutes of exercise: a brisk walk at 4 miles per hour or 35 minutes on an elliptical, depending on the intensity. He stressed that it’s important to remember you don’t have to exercise all at once. Do 15 minutes of exercise three times a day, for instance. “Mix it up. Add variety to your workouts — if you go to a gym, use a variety of machines. But remember, you don’t have to go to a gym to do body-weight exercises.”
Lenser said, “You have to exercise and diet. You can lose weight by dieting alone; however, you’ll probably lose muscle, which slows the metabolism.” He said while cardio — jogging, walking and exercise, such as zumba and spin — is good, once you’re done, you’re no longer burning calories. “Strength training builds muscle, helps ramp up the metabolism and helps your body burn calories all day.”
“The key is to stay motivated. Be sure to find an activity you like or can at least tolerate, whether it’s working with a trainer, joining a running club or just gathering friends to walk or take a class — never underestimate the social aspect. Exercise is about more than weight loss. It helps with mood and is a natural antidepressant. It’s a great happy hour without the hangover.”