Wise Weight Loss


Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2004.

Ready to lose weight in a healthy way? Following are some tips for savvy weight management courtesy of Ellie Zografakis, registered dietician and owner of Nutriformance in St. Louis, Mo.:

-Decrease your caloric intake. To lose weight you must create a negative caloric balance or caloric deficit. In other words, the amount of energy you consume from your food and drinks must be less than the amount of energy you use to exercise and live your everyday life. Although you can attain a caloric deficit by increasing your amount of exercise, most attain it by altering what they eat. Generally, women need 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day and men need 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day. Pregnant and breast-feeding women and people with very active lifestyles need more.

-Follow a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Despite many of the diets promoted today, the most reputable health organizations, including the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and American Heart Association, recommend this path. The ADA also recommends losing no more than one to two pounds per week to ensure that any weight loss is not lean body mass, but fat mass. In order to lose one to two pounds per week, you should consume 500 calories fewer than normal every day, which amounts to 3,500 calories fewer than normal every week.

-Monitor your portion/serving sizes. Confused about what an adequate portion of food is? You’re not alone. Many people are surprised that the serving size of meat recommended for one meal for an adult is only 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid at http://schoolmeals.nal.usda.gov/py/pmap.htm for other facts and recommended serving sizes.

-Keep a food journal. Keeping a record of the foods you eat can help make you aware of your caloric consumption. Many find it helpful to record the amount of calories they consume in the first few weeks of a weight loss program. A registered dietician can then review your journal not only to help find the factors that trigger your desire for certain foods, but also to help ensure that you plan the proper portion sizes to lose weight.

-Focus on body composition. How do you know whether or not you’re losing weight? A typical bathroom scale won’t work by itself. It only indicates the number of pounds, but doesn’t clarify if those pounds are fat or muscle. Furthermore, a scale often show mere shifts in water retention, which are temporary and do not reflect changes in one’s amount of body fat. The only way to get an accurate picture is to measure your body composition to determine your percentage of body fat. You may want your body composition measured every six weeks. That should be enough time for you to see changes. Ask your personal trainer or fitness professional whether or not she is trained to measure you with skin calipers, an easy and accurate method.

This article is provided courtesy of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, the world’s leading membership organization of health and fitness professionals, with more than 19,000 members in more than 80 countries. Since 1982, IDEA has provided health and fitness professionals with pertinent information, education opportunities, career development programs, and industry leadership while helping them enhance the quality of life worldwide through safe, effective fitness and healthy lifestyle programs. For more information on IDEA events, publications, educational products, member services, or other activities, visit the IDEA website at www.ideafit.com.