Weight-loss basics

Your weight is a balancing act, and calories are part of that equation. Fad diets may promise you that counting carbs or eating a mountain of grapefruit will make the pounds drop off. But when it comes to weight loss, it's calories that count. Weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you take in. You can do that by reducing extra calories from food and beverages, and increasing calories burned through physical activity.

Once you understand that equation, you're ready to set your weight-loss goals and make a plan for reaching them. Remember, you don't have to do it alone. Talk to your doctor, family and friends for support. Ask yourself if now is a good time and if you're ready to make some necessary changes. Also, plan smart: Anticipate how you'll handle situations that challenge your resolve and the inevitable minor setbacks.

If you have serious health problems because of your weight, your doctor may suggest weight-loss surgery or medications for you. In this case, you and your doctor will need to thoroughly discuss the potential benefits and the possible risks.

But don't forget the bottom line: The key to successful weight loss is a commitment to making indefinite changes in your diet and exercise habits.

Diet plans

When it comes to weight loss, there's no shortage of diet plans. Check any magazine rack, and you're bound to see the latest and greatest diet plans. But how do you know if a diet plan fits your needs and lifestyle? Ask yourself these questions about any diet plan you're considering:

  • Does it include various foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources and nuts?
  • Does it include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for a lifetime — not just for several weeks or months?
  • Can you easily find these foods in your local grocery store?
  • Will you be able to eat your favorite foods, or better yet, all foods?
  • Does it fit your lifestyle and budget?
  • Does it include proper amounts of nutrients and calories to help you lose weight safely and effectively?
  • Is regular physical activity part of the plan?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, keep looking. There are better diet plans out there for you.

Mayo Clinic diet

Tired of failed fad diets? Maybe it's time for a change. The Mayo Clinic Diet is a different approach to weight loss. First, the Mayo Clinic Diet is based on actual research and clinical experience. Second, the Mayo Clinic Diet recognizes that successful, long-term weight management needs to focus on more than the food you eat and the pounds you lose. It needs to focus on your overall health. The Mayo Clinic Diet helps you reshape your body and your lifestyle by adopting healthy habits and breaking unhealthy ones.

Diet and exercise

How can you lose weight? With diet and physical activity. The key to successful weight loss is developing healthy diet and exercise habits. You may not like those words — diet and exercise. Don't get hung up on the words. Diet just means eating healthy, lower calorie meals. Exercise means being more active.

Although people appropriately focus on diet when they're trying to lose weight, being active also is an essential component of a weight-loss program. When you're active, your body uses energy (calories) to work, helping to burn the calories you take in with food you eat.

Cleaning the house, making the bed, shopping, mowing and gardening are all forms of physical activity. Exercise, on the other hand, is a structured and repetitive form of physical activity that you do on a regular basis.

Whatever activity you choose, do it regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week. Keep in mind that you may need more physical activity to lose weight and keep it off.

Diet pills, supplements and surgery

Diet pills and surgery can help with weight loss — when combined with a healthy diet and physical activity. But diet pills aren't for everyone. Neither is surgery. In fact, many doctors consider them only if you have weight-related health problems.

If you're in that group, you and your doctor need to carefully evaluate the potential benefits of diet pills or surgery and weigh them against the possible long-term risks. Your doctor will also counsel you about the lifestyle changes you'll need to make to be successful over the long term.

A word of caution: Although you can find diet pills and supplements at the drugstore, supermarket, health food store and online, virtually none have been proved effective. And some are downright dangerous. Talk with your doctor before taking any diet pills or supplements.

Apr. 05, 2014