The science of weight loss is commitment and patience

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Lynn Evans, Contributing Columnist
Published 1:28 p.m. CT July 23, 2017

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For people who are looking for ways to manage their weight, some are turning to the use of supplements, or finding success by juicing or cutting out specific food items from their daily intake. Occasionally it could be as simple as eating foods that work for you, not against you. Although there’s no magic fix several foods that are said to be valuable in the battle with the bulge. Though none of these foods will work magically on their own, foods such as Greek and Icelandic yogurts, avocados, barely, and even red chili peppers, offer those who are watching their weight, an added edge when it comes to controlling hunger and removing unwanted pounds.
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Human beings are creatures of habit. We all know that carrying around too much weight is bad for our health and general well-being, but it seems to be next to impossible to shed those extra pounds.

Science agrees. Even people who seem to quickly lose extra weight are likely to gain it back over the next year, according to Kevin Hall, a National Institutes of Health scientist. Hall’s research is highlighted in last month’s Time magazine lead story, “The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Diet Isn’t Working.”

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Mississippi’s obesity rate is no longer first in the nation, but a 35.6 percent adult obesity rate is nothing to brag about. In our state, according to the Trust for America’s Health, women are more likely than men to be obese, and blacks more likely than whites.

Obesity in Mississippians has health consequences. We have the highest rate of diabetes and the second highest rate of hypertension. And obesity is linked to other health problems like heart disease, arthritis and some cancers.

The good news is medical scientists are beginning to better understand what does work to lose weight and get healthier. The two main ingredients, according to NIH’s Hall, are commitment and patience. Losing weight and keeping it off require a big change in lifestyle. The trick is to focus on how much better we will feel if we make the change, and that the result of our efforts will be a better and healthier life.

Time magazine’s story arrives at 12 maxims about getting the weight off and keeping it off. It turns out obesity’s hold on the human body works a lot like other addictions. Our bodies will fight to keep that fat in place, especially the older we get.

  1. First is to recognize that losing weight and keeping it off will require both eating differently and exercising more. A positive side effect is that building exercise into the day is also good for the brain and for productivity.
  2. Focus on sticking first to the weight-loss plan you choose and second to actually losing weight. Choose a proven plan that is right for you. Long-term weight loss takes time and patience, and you may not see the results you want right away.
  3. Build exercise into every day, with a goal of exercising at least one hour every day. In the beginning, your goal may simply be walking 10,000 steps a day. While at work, get up and move every hour, even if it’s only a full-body stretch and a walk to the water cooler.
  4. Opt for smaller servings and a Rainbow Plate, with at least two-thirds of every meal fruits and vegetables. Try to cut out the fried foods and snacks, substituting more uncooked fresh foods like fruit and green salads. Keep meat servings smaller than you are used to, and cut down on white bread, white potatoes and white rice.
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast every day, with more fruits and grains and less processed food.
  6. Keep a journal of your weight and what you eat, as well as what is happening in your life. This will help you keep track of not only what foods and how much you are eating, but also what triggers overeating.
  7. Avoid all sugary drinks including sweet tea and sodas. Medical research has found these empty calories go straight to belly fat.
  8. Weigh yourself at least once or twice a week but don’t obsess about it. Apps like Weight Tracker and Apple’s Progress will chart your successes and help identify those times when you tend to regain.
  9. Limit TV watching and non-work screen time to less than 10 hours a week. Use the time you save to take on a physical activity like walking or a class at the gym.
  10. Choose a diet plan that doesn’t leave you feeling starved. Diets fail when hunger erodes will power. Eating more slowly helps, as does drinking a glass of water 20 minutes before your meal.
  11. Get support for your efforts by making a pact with a friend, or join a group like Weight Watchers that meets regularly to encourage everyone to stick to it.
  12. Focus on goals for better health rather than an idealized weight. When the goal is moving more, eating healthier and feeling better the weight loss will follow.

It is counter-intuitive that in Mississippi, a state plagued by poverty and food insecurity, more than 1 in 3 Mississippians is obese. We do love to eat here, but most of us can choose to eat more wisely and get healthier. The first step, as always, is owning the problem.

Lynn Evans is a former Jackson School Board member and a regularly contributing columnist.

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The science of weight loss is commitment and patience

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