How Can I Lose Weight
If you have questions about controlling your weight, you're not alone. Take a look at these frequently asked questions.
I hate to exercise. Please tell me how to lose weight without exercising.
If you restrict your daily calorie intake enough, you can lose weight without increasing your activity. But it will be very hard to keep the weight off. It is almost impossible to stay on a very restricted diet for a lifetime. A sedentary teenage girl burns only 12 calories per pound per day (a moderately active teen burns 15, and a very active girl burns 18.) So to weigh 120 pounds, the sedentary girl could eat only 1,440 calories a day for the rest of her life. You need a minimum of 1,800 calories a day for good nutrition (at that level a sedentary girl will weigh 150 pounds, but a moderately active teen would weigh only 120.) The average American woman eats 2,200 calories a day (and a sedentary girl would weigh 183 pounds, and the moderately active teen would weigh 146). Exercising has many, many other benefits too: it boosts your metabolism, controls your appetite, increases your energy, tones your muscles, and elevates your mood. Do try to do it!
Are any of those weight loss products I see advertised safe and effective?
You will see dozens of ads in magazines, newspapers, TV, and now on the Internet. Buy this Hollywood Juice diet and lose 10 pounds this weekend. Take this secret supplement at bedtime and lose 40 pounds without dieting. Use this ancient herbal formula and lose 56 pounds in 6 weeks. No, they do not work to produce any significant or long-term weight loss. If it sounds too good to be true, it is not true. Repeat after me: there is no magic bullet; there is no magic bullet. But Americans will spend over $50 billion dollars a year on useless diet products. And many desperate teens will send in their $30-40 for a month to supply of the latest fad, until they learn from their own experience that these products don't work (they just make the sellers rich.) Some herbal supplements that contain ephedrine (ma huang) and caffeine are actually dangerous and can cause high blood pressure, tachycardia, chest pain, mania, tremors, insomnia, and headaches.
Aren't there some diet pills that a doctor can prescribe that will work?
Many prescription medications have been tried over the years. Some like thyroid pills are damaging to a healthy body and unethical to prescribe. Some have later been removed from the market due to unexpected serious side effects including death. Others remain available but only for restricted use. Xenical is supposed to block absorption of fat from the gut, but it can also cause diarrhea, rectal incontinence, gas, malnutrition and other major side effects. Meridia is a type of amphetamine (an addictive controlled drug) that may reduce appetite. These drugs are sometimes prescribed for seriously obese adults along with a program of diet and exercise. But studies show that diet pills result in less than 10 pounds additional weight loss, compared to people who just follow the same diet and exercise program without the pills. A very minimal benefit is not worth the risks of the drugs. Diet drugs are not tested or approved for use in teens.
I am confused by all the diet books. Are carbohydrates good or bad to eat if you are trying to lose weight?
No wonder you are confused. Many nutritionists advise that a healthy diet should include 60% carbohydrates, and the Food Guide Pyramid recommends 6-11 servings a day. Popular diet books (The Atkins Diet, Zone Diet, Sugar Busters Diet) say that overweight people cannot handle carbohydrates and shouldn't eat them. The answer comes in understanding that there are two kinds of carbohydrates: refined carbohydrates including sugars, and complex carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates are quickly broken down into blood sugar, which causes the body to secrete too much insulin, and this increases hunger and may lead to insulin-resistance and diabetes. Therefore, overweight people are wise to avoid white foods: sugars, white flour, processed foods made with these, white bread, white pasta, white instant rice. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly, and they fill you up, curb hunger, and supply healthy dietary fiber. Complex carbohydrates include lots of great foods: whole grains, dark breads, semolina and whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereal, bran, cooked oatmeal, popcorn, beans, nuts, seeds, and many fruits and vegetables. For permanent weight control, make complex carbohydrates the basis of your healthy lifetime eating pattern.
I eat on the run, usually at fast food places, so what can I do to control calories?
Fortunately many fast food chains are well aware of your problem and they are trying to help. You want to make good food choices that will minimize the amount of fat and calories in your meal. First look on the wall. Many fast food restaurants now post charts that list the calories and grams of fat in their foods. In general, avoid anything fried and order the small sizes. Order the grilled chicken sandwich or the junior size burger. Order no-meat, thin crust pizza with half the cheese and twice the veggies. Stop at delis or sandwich shops that offer salad bars and low fat sandwiches. If you get a salad, squeeze on lemon juice instead of high-fat dressing. Skip the soft drinks and just ask for a cup of water (it is free). Split your meal with a friend. And don't hesitate to stop when you are full. You don't have to clean your plate. Leave a little.
I need to lose weight really fast! What is the best way to do it?
You are not alone in wanting to lose weight fast. Since you are asking for the fastest way, we assume you already know that fasting, vomiting, laxatives, and diet pills are not safe or effective. Nothing really is. There are no magic diet plans for quick weight loss that are safe to recommend. You can go on a semi-starvation diet (600 calories a day) for a week or two and lose 10 pounds, most of which is water. But you will soon gain it back, and it will be even harder to lose the next time. Rapid weight loss from semi-starvation diets can also cause gallstones, hair loss, weakness, and intestinal problems. Why do you think you need to lose weight really fast, big date, wedding, job interview, photo session, competition of some kind? Whatever it is, when you look back later, you will realize a few pounds made no difference in the long run. You are much better off being realistic: slow and steady is the way to healthy, permanent weight loss.
I eat right and exercise every day, but I am not losing weight. What is wrong?
It could be you are still eating more calories than you burn. Most people underestimate the amount of food they eat by 20%-50%. It could be you are not getting true aerobic exercise (the kind that makes you sweat). You might have reached a temporary weight plateau when your body metabolism is readjusting and you don't lose weight for several weeks despite being faithful to your program. Or maybe you have become frustrated or depressed and have started treating yourself to rich foods more than you realize. Remember that weight control is a lifetime commitment, be patient, continue to eat and exercise in a healthy way, and concentrate on feeling good about yourself and doing what you enjoy.