Before you go looking for the latest, trendiest diet, Kristen Clay, a registered clinical dietitian at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, offers these basic recommendations for almost every dieter:
- Calorie awareness – Weight loss requires burning more calories than you take in. That, of course, means an awareness of not only what you eat but how much.
- Know what to eat – The USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov campaign seeks to educate the public on healthy eating. “The idea is half your plate at each meal should be fruits and vegetables. Seeing that gives folks a visual that helps them think about what they’re eating,” says Clay. The MyPlate campaign addresses the recommended servings of all five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
- Set realistic goals – “Even if it’s a small goal, do what you can do,” says Clay. “If you’re a big soda drinker, start by just saying ‘I’m going to drink one less soda this week, and then maybe two less sodas the next week.’ Make small goals that you can obtain – we call them SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.”
- Physical exercise – “People think, ‘Let me just diet, let me just starve myself, cut out all these calories and everything will be fine,’” says Clay. “But for weight loss and weight management – to lose it and keep it off – you need physical activity. It’s also important before you start that physical activity and before you make any huge dietary changes that you talk to your doctor.”
- New lifestyle – Some diets are so restrictive that they set you up for failure, says Clay. Rather than “dieting,” she advises a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise. Do that, she says, and the pounds will fall off.