Improving health starts now

eatHealthy

The holidays are over and now is the time many people are making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and improve their health.  It is a great time of the year to get started and shed those pounds!

Low cost weight loss
There are many low cost ways to lose weight, including calorie counting, carbohydrate counting, or simply reducing your portion size and the amount of food you eat daily.  Theoretically, eating 10 more calories a day than you burn for a year will result in a one pound weight gain over that year.  Over ten years that is a 10 pound weight gain. What does 10 calories look like?  Examples include one peanut M&M, 1 1⁄2 fast food french fries or two teaspoons of red wine. 
People simply have to eat less to lose weight.  However, there is no proven method that one type of food is better for weight loss than another.  This is probably surprising to some who have had good success with weight loss using a low-carbohydrate type diet.  These diets, like others, work if you are consistent with the diet plan.  Any diet plan that limits your food choices will probably result in weight loss as the body tends to eat less of foods that are consumed regularly.  The less variety in the diet, the less food one tends to eat.

Get moving with exerciseAdditionally, exercise is also vital for weight loss, however, more so for weight maintenance.  When a person loses weight, their body’s metabolic rate decreases, which is the amount of calories a person burns on a daily basis.  Exercise helps to lessen this decrease and preserve the metabolic rate, so that weight is not regained easily.  Overweight people usually have above normal metabolic rates, as they are inadvertent weight lifters, for example, carrying an extra 20 plus pounds on a daily basis.  Pick up a 20 pound bag of something and see how heavy it feels.  Imagine carrying one or more of those around with you all the time. 
In these tough economic times, there are multiple low cost resources to help you begin to reduce calories and increase physical activity in your daily life. There are calorie counting websites that offer helpful information on the calorie content of just about any type of food, including restaurant foods.   Good examples include
www.myfoodapedia.gov, www.calorieking.com
www.calorielab.com, or
www.thecaloriecounter.com. These sites also offer subscriptions that allow you to log your food and diet progress over the internet — to help you stay focused.  Check the public library for calorie counting books and low calorie cook books.  Many magazines also offer healthy lifestyles advice and coaching. 
Walking is a low-cost exercise that almost everyone can participate in at some level. 
Finally, be encouraged that weight loss and improved health can be achieved with simple, small changes in daily behavior. Remember, if you have any chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems, or take prescription medications, or cannot remember the last time you had a physical exam with your doctor, then check with your doctor before beginning a diet or exercise program.

Dr. Carrigan is medical director of Mercy Weight Management as well as a family medicine physician with Mercy Family Physicians in Perrysburg.