I’m saying it out loud. This is the year I will lose those pesky 10 pounds. (Okay, so now it’s up to 15.) I have been ranting and raving about ever since middle age took control of my middle section. When you see me five months from now, I will look like I did when I moved to California in 1970 (but with a few more wrinkles and without the luxurious shag haircut).
Already, I have put into effect one of the best tips for losing weight: Making a public statement that holds one accountable. Here are three more of my top tips for losing weight in a healthy manner.
1. Portion control.
I have very dark and dangerous feelings about those who smugly practice this strategy. I, like most Americans, am untalented at portion control. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), American men have added an average of 168 calories per day to their diet during 30 years. Women have been naughtier, adding an average of 335 calories per day. Why is this? Perhaps they were raised by the same mother as I, one who guiltified them about starving children in faraway places. Also, we dine out way more than we used to, and fast food joints can infuse us with as many as 2,000 calories per supersized meal—more than most of us should be consuming in an entire day.
A couple of tips on how to succeed at portion control: Cut everything you have on your plate in half and—here is the trick—eat only half of it. The other thing is to use smaller plates and bowls. This has been scientifically validated: With a smaller plate or bowl, your mind will perceive that you are fuller faster.
2. Don’t starve or deprive yourself. This, of course, is my favorite tip. But it is true. If your body feels starved, because you have deprived yourself of its adequate calories, or even its treats, it will retaliate. The next time you are near a chocolate fountain, you are more likely to be compelled to stick your head into it. It is only human.
“I don’t think there are any sins about weight loss,” said Dr. John La Puma, Santa Barbara physician and nationally known medical nutritionist. “I almost always advise my patients, starting out, that on the seventh day they can eat anything they want. After that, they should choose four days out of each year—I call them Fiesta Days—where anything goes. Weight loss should be fun: A journey to a better place that is about reward, but not about food reward.”
3. Diets don’t work; counting calories does.
We have finally gotten the message that good dieting is about “calories in/calories out,” which isn’t always easy to master. A Web site that is helpful with this concept is CalorieKing.com. You enter information about your age, weight, activity level, etc., and it calculates the number of calories you need to consume in order to lose weight. Using its helpful calorie calculation tool, you can figure out how many calories you consumed in any one day, deducting the calories expended in exercise.
For example, Calorie King told me that I need to consume no more than 1,670 calories per day in order to lose weight. Today, tallying my calories consumed and exercise that expended calories, I entered my dinner hour with the full calorie allotment to spend. Since I was going out to a dinner with a friend at a Mexican restaurant, this was useful information. I was able to eat my carnitas and drink a margarita or two with impunity. You can sign up for a free seven-day trial on the Web site.
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his Web site and blog at www.HealthspanWeb.com for more information on the topics covered in this column.