Eat Well to Be Well: Two easy ways to jump start weight loss for summer

In a blink of an eye, summer will be here. It’s time to put away the heavy coats and sweaters and bring out sleeveless tops and shorts. Many of us look forward to this time of year but for others, it may be a difficult transitional time if they weigh more than they would like. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that obesity is a problem not only in this country but around the world. In the United States, around 67 percent of all adults are either overweight or obese, and all that extra weight places a heavy burden of increased risk for major health problems like heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, hypertension and other chronic diseases.

Weight loss for many people is an elusive matter. Weight loss diets are a dime a dozen, some of them good, some not. What works for one person may not work for someone else as obesity is a complex metabolic disease. For most people, weight gain is usually the result of eating more calories than we need and not getting in enough exercise – basically an imbalance of energy intake and energy expenditure. This results in excess weight gain or fat that accumulates in our adipose (fat) tissue and around organs of the body. Another factor is one’s metabolism or the rate at which we burn calories.

“Metabolism is a big player in the weight loss game,” explained Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology, and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. “Having a slow metabolism can inhibit your ability to lose weight but it’s important to understand how this process actually works in the body.

“Your metabolism is as unique as your fingerprint. The BMR (basal metabolic rate) – amount of calories the body burns at rest – determines how fast or slow your metabolism is. Men typically have a higher BMR than women because they possess more lean muscle and muscle burns fat.

“Age is also a big factor,” Dr. Samadi said. “Low thyroid is another factor that can slow your metabolism. It’s essential to have your thyroid hormones checked by your doctor. As we get older, our hormone levels change, which causes our metabolism to slow.

“The earlier you instill healthy eating in your life, the faster you’ll be able to lose weight before this happens, and as summer approaches, what better time to start?”

There are two things a person can do to jump start weight loss and it doesn’t require counting calories, keeping a food journal, eliminating whole food groups, buying pre-packaged food or just plain feeling deprived and miserable. They are:

  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Weigh yourself every day.

 Always eat breakfast

Despite what some studies may say, breakfast really is an important meal. We sleep through the night and when we wake up, we need to “break the fast.” The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of successful dieters started in 1994, has demonstrated that eating breakfast is one of the key behaviors associated with long-term weight loss maintenance. In fact, 78 percent of people registered with NWCR report eating breakfast every day.

But just to be clear, this is not the sugary cereal or glazed donut breakfast some people consume. It needs to be a protein-packed breakfast (around 20 to 30 grams) as protein is known for its satiety staying power. Protein curbs our appetite, preventing food cravings later on in the day.

Research on eating a high-protein breakfast show that protein helps reduce ghrelin, an appetite stimulating hormone, yet increases the gut hormone peptide YY, making a person feel satiated. Other studies have shown people who consume 20 to 30 grams of lean protein sources at breakfast felt more satisfied and had maintained more muscle mass than those who consumed less protein.

Excellent lean protein foods to choose for breakfast are eggs, skim or low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, beans, cottage cheese, walnuts and lean beef. An example of a very simple high protein breakfast: Two slices whole-wheat bread with 4 tablespoons of peanut butter topped with banana slices along with one cup of skim milk: 24 grams of protein.

“Eating less and exercising more is not the magic formula to lose weight,” noted Dr. Samadi. “What you choose to eat matters more than any other factor. A significant study in 2012, from the Association for the Study of Obesity, found that when exercise was the main weight loss method, people didn’t lose weight. Small changes to your diet can be much more effective than running in the treadmill for an hour. A protein-rich breakfast is a great place to start. My personal favorite – the perfect Mediterranean breakfast – Multigrain toast, topped with avocado, egg and tomato.

“I’m also a huge advocate for the health benefits of coffee,” Dr. Samadi said. “Besides those who are pregnant, experiencing ulcers or have heart disease, 3 to 4 cups per day can increase your metabolic rate and has shown to even reduce the risk of diabetes. Try it. You’ll be ready for the day, trust me.”

Weigh yourself every day

That’s right, bring the weight scale out of the closet, dust it off and step on it. New research now suggests that daily weighing may be more effective at weight loss and weight maintenance than previously thought. There have always been concerns that daily weighing could lead to an unhealthy obsession over weight. But this may not be the case. Stepping on the scale each day gives a person immediate feedback about their eating and activity behaviors over the past 24 hours. This is more likely to result in individuals taking more self-regulation and personal accountability to make necessary changes in their daily eating and physical activity.

If the scale reading has gone up a few pounds from one day to the next, think back over what was eaten the previous day along with activity. This enables a person to catch any changes in weight quickly and to make adjustments in food intake or exercise accordingly. Weighing infrequently makes it more difficult to determine what caused weight gain. Keep a record each day of your weight and it can be an effective tool to be on top of any gains in weight that may occur.

How frequently should someone weigh themselves? One time a day. That’s it, no more. Weighing multiple times throughout the day will show too much fluctuation occurring, causing frustration, perhaps even defeat, and becoming too focused on the number that appears. The best time to step on the scale for the most accurate reading is first thing in the morning, after urinating and preferably without clothes on. Keep the scale on a hard surface (no carpeting) and use the same scale each day. The NWCR also shows that 75 percent of successful weight loss maintainers weigh themselves at least once a week if not more often.

It should be noted that the research suggesting daily weighing for trying to lose or maintain weight was conducted only on adults and is not recommended for children, adolescents or anyone showing signs of an eating disorder or is being treated for one.

Losing weight is a journey with many steps involved to be successful at it. Eating a high protein breakfast and weighing oneself daily are not the only paths to successful weight loss, but they can begin to pave the way to a slimmed down summer.

Sources: Butryn, M.L., Phelan, S., Hill, J.O. & Wing, R.R. Consistent self-monitoring of weight: a key component of successful weight loss maintenance. Obesity. 2007 Dec; vol. 15, no. 12. 3091-3095; VanWormer, J.J., Linde, J.A., Harnack, L.J., Stovitz, S.D., & Jeffrey, R.W. Self-weighing frequency is associated with weight gain prevention over two years among working adults. Int J Behav Med. 2012 Sep: 19(3): 351-358; Goval, R., & Julka, S. Impact of breakfast skipping on the health status of the population. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Sep-Oct; 18(5): 683-687; Leidy, H.J., Ortinau, L.C., Douglas, S.M., & Hoertel, H.A. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:677-88; National Weight Control Registry.


Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, Burlingame, where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and at Butler County Community College, Council Grove, where she teaches Therapeutic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and is also a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi at www.samadimd.com. Contact her at [email protected].

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