Flickr/avlxyzA version of this post originally appeared on Pulse-voices from the heart of medicine.
As a primary-care practitioner, I know that obesity and its adverse effects on health are a huge problem in this country. I also know that the solution is simple: fewer calories in, more calories out.
But a medical practitioner’s ability to make that happen with any patient is limited. Besides, given my own situation, I’ve often felt self-conscious counseling parents and children about losing weight.
I’ve never been fat, but I have dwelled in the “overweight” category for some time.
I stand close to 6’1″ and in recent years my weight has peaked at 218 pounds.
Last year, I noticed an announcement on my hospital’s website, seeking subjects for a twelve-week weight-loss study.
I registered as a subject.
At the initial evaluation, I gathered with seven other potential subjects to learn the study’s particulars, potential benefits and possible side effects.
During my personal evaluation, they weighed me-the number was higher than I’d ever imagined.
I was given a scale to weigh myself daily. I also received personal diaries to record my daily weight, the foods and beverages that I consumed and the amount of exercise I got each day, and a book that listed the calories and fat in common foods and restaurant meals. We also took lessons online that emphasized how to make smart substitutions.
Armed with these tools, I set out to do the heretofore impossible: to take control of my eating. I admonished to to consume no more than 1500 calories and fifty grams of fat per day and exercise at least thirty minutes daily.
Each week I dutifully submitted a table recording my daily weights, calorie and fat intake. When it comes to weight and health, the amount and type of food that you consume really matters.
Limiting my intake, in both quantity and quality, made me feel that I’d entered a more constrained, less pleasurable phase of my life.
Still, I succeeded at meeting the dietary requirements at least half the time.
As a result, I achieved my goal: a ten-percent weight reduction. I reduced my blood-sugar levels to near-normal.
Most importantly, I learned the nutritional content of different foods. Who knew that a muffin has 400 to 500 calories-one-third of a whole day’s caloric intake on the weight-loss program?
I can’t say that weight loss is easy, but-and this is important-it can be done.
Now I’m in the study’s maintenance phase; I check in every three months. Although I don’t count calories, I pay close attention to what goes into my mouth, and I exercise daily or almost daily.
I also weigh myself daily. The process is not anxiety-free, but it’s necessary, as one of our lessons put it, “to prevent a lapse from becoming a relapse.”
But it only matters if I manage to keep the weight off. A year into the study, I am discovering how challenging this can be.
So I stick to the study’s guidelines: (1) eat breakfast daily; (2) weigh daily; and, most importantly, (3) don’t let a lapse become a relapse.
Some of my pediatric patients-or more precisely their mothers-have commented admiringly on my weight loss.
A number, overweight themselves, are eager for me to share my newfound wisdom. And I do, now without feeling conflicted.
This article originally appeared at Pulse Magazine. Copyright 2014.
SEE ALSO: 15 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Nutrition
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