Summer Weight Management for Year-Round Success

By Steven D. Marks, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, PacificSource Health Plans

It’s that time of year again. The smell of barbeque lingers in the air and it’s about that time to pull out last year’s swimsuit. If you’re like many Americans, this monumental moment reveals how much weight you’ve gained since last summer. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of dieters say they worry about their weight all or some of the time. As patterns and elevated statistics reveal, America appears to have a problem with weight management, and therefore, losing weight and keeping it off.

The first step to a healthy weight loss is to consult your medical practitioner. He or she can help you decide if you need to lose weight or simply avoid gaining more, and, if necessary, can help you establish a healthy weight loss goal. If you’d like more support, consider visiting a registered dietitian, athletic trainer or joining a support group.

Good nutrition will be one of the essential factors in your long-term success. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and low-fat dairy products whenever possible. Eat smaller portions and eat fresh food. Reduce your alcohol intake. Limit sweets and high-fat foods. Drink plenty of water. Above all, eat foods that you enjoy. Your new diet will never last if you hate the foods you’re eating.

Pay attention to your caloric intake. Generally, active women need about 1,400 to 1,600 calories per day; sedentary women need about 1,100 to 1,300 per day. Active men need about 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day; sedentary men need about 1,600 to 1,800 per day. These guidelines are weight maintenance recommendations. For weight loss, daily calorie intake should be lower until maintenance goals are met. By making small daily changes, you can greatly reduce your total caloric intake on a weekly or monthly basis. Replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie foods. Drink fat-free milk instead of two percent. Drink sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime instead of diet soda. Order a salad or vegetables instead of french fries.

After you feel comfortable with your new diet, begin to integrate exercise into your regimen if you haven’t already. Guidelines suggest 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. Do something that you enjoy. If you hate being in a gym, run or walk outside. If you’re not used to working out, start slowly and set small goals. Build on each goal every week.

According to the study by Pew, adults on a diet would like to lose 29 pounds on average. This is unrealistic as a short-term goal, but attainable by losing about two pounds each week, considered by many experts as an optimum rate of weight loss.

Of course, weight is affected by many factors: genetics, environment and lifestyle choices. Regardless of what you don’t have control over, only you can make the decision and commitment to lose weight. Only you can choose how to eat and when to exercise. When you lack motivation to get off the couch, think of the benefits that weight loss will bring you: more energy, increased self-esteem and most importantly, improved health. With dedication, you will not only claim summer weight loss success, but year-round success. Next year, be the one who can’t wait to dig out that five-year old swimsuit and hit the pool. 

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Last updated 3/11/2009