One Small Step toward Weight Loss, One Big Step toward Better Health


I am frequently asked by my patients, “What is the best weight loss diet?” (Followed by the question, “What pill can you give me to lose weight?” which is the topic of another article!) My answer is, “Whatever diet works for you.” THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “THE DIET.” Many diets promote weight loss and improve overall health.

For example, the Ornish diet is the traditional low fat/high vegetable diet. The Mediterranean diet includes significant intake of fish, occasional red wine in some cases, olive oil and mixed nuts. The DASH diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, includes whole grains, some meats and no more than 2/3 tsp salt daily. The DASH diet helps prevent hypertension. Patients who follow high protein, low carbohydrate Atkins or Zone diets also successfully lose weight. Similar to the low carbohydrate diets are the low glycemic diets, such as the South Beach diet, which emphasize carbohydrates that avoid rapid increases in blood glucose after being eaten.  The Pritkin diet is a VERY low fat diet.

Food and supplement replacement diets (Nutrisystem, Optifast, Slimfast) also work, as do group programs such as Weight Watchers that emphasize support systems and group weigh-ins. Confused yet?

The problem with every diet system is that the weight is regained unless the dietary changes become a permanent part of one’s eating routine. So if you can’t eat high protein and fat, or low fat and vegetables, or protein shakes for the rest of your life, you will regain the weight.

What I suggest is small changes that can be a permanent part of your life. Remember, obesity is a lifelong condition, just like allergies or arthritis. If you stop treatment, weight gain, just like other chronic illnesses, will recur.

Here are some strategies to start before going on a radical diet. They are healthy first steps to improving your overall health. I challenge you to do (consistently) just ONE of the following strategies as the first step toward weight loss, health and fitness:

1) Eat a small, healthy protein/fruit rich breakfast.

2) Skip second helpings.

3) Decrease portion size of meats (3 oz, the size of a deck of cards)

4) Increase your activity. Start with five minutes of leisurely walking three times a week to simply incorporate exercise into your weekly routine. If you actually make the initial effort to set aside a small amount of time for exercise several days a week, you will slowly notice that you naturally increase your exercise exertion and endurance without significant effort. Of course, it is ESSENTIAL that you consult with your primary care physician first before starting any exercise program.

5) Stop telling yourself (and your doctor) that your stressful life/job/family responsibilities/joint limitations prevent you from finding time to exercise. The president of the United States exercises. Neurosurgeons and Fortune 500 company CEOs and carpool Moms exercise. Is your life more demanding than theirs? You can’t find five minutes three days a week to go window shopping? (Remember window shopping is the START, not the ultimate GOAL of your exercise program!)

6) Skip second helpings (worth mentioning again).

7) Consider eating six small meals a day instead of three large meals, and make dinner your smallest meal.

 8) Add more fiber, naturally, through whole grains (unless you have celiac disease), or fiber supplements. This is important for better colon health and to help serum cholesterol.

9) Cut out sodas and other sugary drinks.

10) Cut out alcohol.

11) Make a DETAILED food diary.

12) Decrease or eliminate sweets (Don’t buy them for your home, especially if you have children—you want them to develop healthy eating habits at a young age).

13) Cut out fast foods.

14) Walk across the parking lot to your job or up the stairs—this is the starting point, not the ultimate goal, of your exercise program.

15) Incorporate calcium sources into your diet

16) No food from vending machines!

17) No snacks after 7 PM.

18) Think about loving your body with all it’s imperfections. Concentrate on improving your health and well being rather than looking like a movie star.

19) Decrease TV time (and hence “snack time”)

20) Everyone in the family eat together for as many meals as possible, especially dinner. You and your teenagers are more likely to eat healthy meals, rather than fast food, this way.

21) Try to eat at least five fruit and vegetable servings a day.

Even if you don’t follow a “name” diet perfectly, incorporating ONE or more of the above measures is a great starting point, and will give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment. I ask patients to accomplish that FIRST SMALL step in their lifelong odyssey toward a healthy weight, decreased susceptibility to illness and most importantly, feeling energetic and happy!

Last edited by Dr.Vee on April 7, 2009

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