Maintaining a healthy weight through disciplined lifestyle changes
Obesity and being overweight is a huge problem in our country today, and weight loss myths and fad diets abound on the internet. So many people want to lose weight, for body image reasons or health reasons, but in today’s environment it’s hard. Why?
According to Jae Lee, M.D., internist at Piedmont Internal Medicine, the cause of many being overweight or obese is our food and our mindset towards it. In society today, we are addicted to food, especially carbohydrates. We look at food as a reward, we eat for pleasure and taste instead of nutrition. “At Easter we eat chocolate bunnies and jellybeans, at birthday parties there’s always cake and ice cream, at dinner there’s wine. “We need to get away from that,” says Dr. Lee.
Also, our lifestyle is very sedentary and undisciplined. We all —— kids and adults —— spend too much time on our computers, on the internet, or watching tv, and we’re not getting out and moving enough. “The internet is a problem in two ways,” Dr. Lee says. “Not only does it make people less active, but it is also full of nutritional misinformation and fad diets.”
What is a healthy weight?
“Not all of us have to be model-thin,” she says. “It’s about feeling good about yourself, being healthy and active, and developing a better body image.”
According to Dr. Lee, the solution to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is twofold: a healthy diet, and becoming more active. “Losing weight doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t make it that way,” she says. “In a nutshell, for a healthy lifestyle, decrease the carbohydrates, which have absolutely no nutritional value, increase the fiber and protein in your diet, and move more. This is where the internet can be a positive resource. There is a ton of good information out there about healthy diets and how to evaluate the foods you eat,” she says.
“It is about a complete change of mindset and lifestyle,” Dr. Lee says.” It’s a lifelong change, not a crash diet to lose 10 pounds for a special occasion. To eat healthily, you have to detach yourself, and look at food only as something your body needs for survival, not something that is pleasurable. So give it the healthy foods it needs, not the carbs you crave. It’s not easy. It takes effort and discipline.”
“Do you know what we always do that drives me crazy? On a child’s first birthday we give them a whole cake and let them dig into it while we take pictures. Why do we do that? Sugar’s like a drug; why start them on an addiction that young?”
What about exercise?
“In my estimation, weight loss is only about 20 percent exercise and 80 percent diet. So hitting the gym is not going to do it by itself. That said, exercise and diet go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. It’s very good for you, for your muscles and joints, and for your mental health and body image. It is excellent to stay trim and toned, and maintain a healthy weight once you get there. Part of being healthy is maintaining your body physically. My patients know if I want them to lose weight, they’re going to hear from me. The problem with weight gain is that it’s not just rising cholesterol or blood pressure, it’s your joints deteriorating. And guess what, when your joints go, you can’t move, you sit and eat and gain more weight. It becomes a vicious cycle. Sometimes patients tell me ‘I don’t have time for exercise.’ I say that’s baloney.”
“Eat less carbs and more fiber and protein. Losing weight doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t make it that way.”
How to start
“This is not rocket science. Most people know exactly what they’re doing wrong,” says Dr. Lee. “I tell them, ‘Well, stop whatever it is you’re doing wrong then!’ When my patients tell me, ‘I can’t lose weight,’ I say to them, ‘It doesn’t take a physician to tell you how to lose weight. Just don’t eat as much. Just stopping the habit of snacking altogether and you’ll lose some of the weight quickly. Evaluate what you’re doing wrong, be honest with yourself, and commit to change.”
When you do something for two weeks, it becomes a habit, Dr. Lee says. So if you start eating a healthy diet and make it to the two week mark, you’re well on your way to establishing a healthy eating lifestyle. “The less bad food you eat, the less you will want it, it decreases the desire,” she says. Combine that with a healthier body image from exercise, and it creates an upward spiral —— the better you do with diet and exercise, the less you crave unhealthy food and the more you enjoy being more active.”
Creating a healthier environment
“It’s simple education,” she says. “We need to change the mentality towards food, at school and at home. We need to get kids moving, and we need to educate them, starting at a very young age, how to eat healthily. Programs in schools, especially preschools and elementary schools, are excellent, because a lot of kids aren’t getting this information at home.”
Photo by Stephanie Ascari