Seven secrets to slimming down

By Providence Nutrition Services

Let’s get to work on that New Year’s resolution, shall we? According to Time magazine, losing weight tops the list of resolutions made — and broken — each year. We’re not going to talk about the broken part, though. We’re here to help you succeed.

It’s no secret that eating more vegetables and cutting back on sugary sodas, fatty meats and bakery sweets will help you chip away at those extra pounds. You should do these things — by all means — but you don’t need a dietitian to tell you that. Instead, I’ll share some strategies that you may not have heard about — or perhaps you have heard about, but haven’t tried. The latest research points to these seven strategies as the meat and potatoes — or, perhaps, the chicken breast and greens — of successful weight loss. Give them a try, along with the other things you know you should be doing, and this very well could be the year that you achieve some real change.

1 – Weigh yourself regularly (How ‘fitting’)

For decades, everyone warned us not to focus on the scale. But a wealth of new research now makes it pretty clear that this was bad advice. Monitoring your weight regularly, we now know, can make a big difference.

The National Weight Control Registry studies the habits of more than 10,000 people who have lost 30 pounds or more and maintained their weight loss for more than a year. Among their success strategies: 75 percent weigh themselves at least once a week. Follow their lead, and take it a step further: write it down.

Keeping a written record keeps your goal top of mind. It also makes it easier to track your true progress. Daily fluctuations can make your ups and downs look more dramatic than they really are — to get the true story, dietitians recommend looking at your average weight loss over a three- to four-week period. That’s easier to do if you have the numbers written down. And for the record, a healthy rate of weight loss is an average of 1-2 pounds per week.

2 – Write down what you eat

Keeping a food journal is a proven success strategy for weight loss. Knowing that you have to write down everything you eat and drink will make you a little bit more conscious of — and discerning with — your food choices. There are plenty of tools that make this as easy as possible, from old-school pencil-and-paper journals to sophisticated phone apps and websites. The amount of detail you get into is up to you — some people write down only what they eat and drink, without the amounts, and still see results. The important thing is just to start doing it.

3 – Calories do count – but you don’t have to count them

We all know that exercise is a good thing. But it’s hard to lose a lot of weight through exercise alone. On the other hand, a lot of people succeed at losing weight through calorie control alone. If you’ve been ignoring the calories-in side of the equation, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck if you start paying attention.

There are several ways to control calories without actually having to count them. One way is to put together a meal pattern that aims at a targeted calorie level, and then eat according to that pattern. Another way is to determine how many servings per day you can eat from each food group to stay within your calorie budget. A dietitian can help you set up either of these types of plans, based on a realistic calorie target that you can establish together. A third option is to get some tech support — there are multiple websites and phone apps that can track calories for you. Some can help with the journaling, as well. Check out for a list of the best sites.

4 – Move more

While it is true that many people can lose weight without exercising, it’s not true for everyone. For people who are extremely inactive and burn very few calories through their activities of daily living, it may not be possible to cut calories far enough to lose weight. An overweight woman who is disabled, for example, or who sits for most of the day, may burn as few as 1,200 calories a day. Even if she strictly limits what she eats to 1,200 calories (and I wouldn’t recommend going below that), she would probably remain overweight. Finding a way to work in some safe movement could make the critical difference.

And of course, even if it is possible for you to lose weight without exercising, that doesn’t mean it’s advisable. You’ll lose it faster, maintain your weight loss longer and be better off in a multitude of ways if you make activity a bigger part of your life.

5 – Eat three meals a day, even if you’re not hungry

Some programs recommend eating only when you’re hungry, which can cause problems ranging from slower metabolism to ravenous, throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-eat-everything-in-sight hunger. Other programs suggest eating every two hours, which is a meal-planning nightmare that leaves people thinking about food all day long. The balanced approach, and the one that works best for weight loss, is the tried and true: Eat three square meals a day, at regular times each day. Space them four or five hours apart. If you find that there’s another time each day when you always get hungry, add a low-calorie, satisfying snack. If you’re not hungry when mealtime rolls around, eat anyway. That may sound counterintuitive, but eating on a regular schedule keeps your metabolism and energy high and staves off hunger and binges later.

6 – Start every day with breakfast

About those three meals: Eat the first one within an hour of getting up in the morning. The longer you wait to eat your first meal of the day, the more you prolong your metabolism’s calorie-conserving sleep mode. Breakfast stokes the furnace and gets your metabolism roaring to life. Studies show that people who eat breakfast every day are more successful at losing weight, as well as keeping it off.

7 – Spread out your protein

The typical American eating pattern is to eat most of the day’s protein at dinner. But new research suggests that spreading your protein evenly throughout the day is better for weight loss. Here’s why: As we get older, we start to lose lean body mass — the metabolically active muscle tissue that burns calories throughout the day. Eating protein helps restore this muscle mass. If you eat all of your day’s protein at dinner, you only get this rebuilding effect once a day. But when you spread your protein across all your meals, the research suggests, you can achieve this benefit three times a day.

We’re not suggesting that you go on a high-protein diet. Eating just 20 to 30 grams per meal appears to be the magic number (more is not better). You can get that amount from just 3 ounces of cooked chicken breast (21 grams of protein), or 6 ounces of fat-free Greek yogurt (14 grams) and an egg (7 grams). As a weight-loss bonus: Protein leaves you more satisfied, so you’ll be less likely to overeat.

And that’s it. These seven strategies are pretty uncomplicated. They don’t involve crazy eating patterns, expensive supplements or mega-workouts — on the contrary, they’re pretty easy to fit into a normal life. So why isn’t everyone doing this? Good question. Once your friends and family members start commenting on your weight loss and asking what your secret is, go ahead and let them in on it. And be sure to pat yourself on the back for every pound you lose, because every pound that is kept off is a success. Happy New Year!

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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