Health Column:

For success in weight loss, trim down by trimming portions

By Dr. Stephen Ellis
Blount Memorial Hospital

Research has shown that within 18 months of losing weight with a typical diet, people gain back the lost weight, plus 10 percent.

People who want to lose weight and keep it off, will find lasting success by learning portion control. You don’t have to change what you eat, just how much you eat.

The first key to portion control is remembering to eat three meals a day. When skipping meals, most often breakfast, there is a tendency to overeat at the next meals. If it’s an issue of time, keep something that is convenient, and eat it on the way to work.

When eating a meal, the main portion of meat shouldn’t be bigger than a deck of playing cards. It may be helpful to write on a large piece of paper the word "portions," and place it on the refrigerator. Changes in eating habits take three to four months, so having a reminder can be quite helpful.

Another approach is to decrease food intake by three or four bites at every meal, and leave a little food on the plate.

Keep a variety of healthy snacks available in case hunger strikes between meals. Pretzels, baked chips, dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn, low-fat ice cream, whole-grain cereal and fresh fruit all are healthy snack options.

Another small change that I suggest to my patients is limiting the number of soft drinks consumed. Carbonated beverages typically have about nine teaspoons of sugar per serving, and often people fall into the habit of drinking several soft drinks a day. By switching to diet soda or another beverage they enjoy, they can reduce their calorie intake. Another idea is to
switch from whole milk to 2 percent, and then to 1 percent after a while.

When dining out, portions are quite large, so decide beforehand how much to have. Push some of the meal to the side to take home, or share an entrée with someone. Another option is to ask the server not to bring any bread or chips and salsa until the meal is served. It’s easy to fill up on this type of high-carbohydrate foods, and it will be easier to resist temptation if they’re not there.

Also, slow down when eating. Take smaller bites or put the fork down after every bite, and enjoy food instead of just shoveling it in.

Successful weight loss can be measured by weighing once a month and seeing if you have lost an average of one pound per week. However, it is important to focus on learning a new process, not just losing weight. Establishing a way of eating healthier, more-reasonable amounts of food will gradually result in dropping down to a healthy weight.

People who lose weight by controlling portion sizes will see a permanent change and shouldn’t ever have to worry about losing weight again.

Dr. Stephen Ellis is a board-certified internal medicine specialist at the Blount Memorial Occupational Health Center at Tellico West in Vonore.

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