1. You must burn 2000 calories per week in physical activity or you will likely regain most of your weight in a few months no matter how you lose it. Without this level of activity, you may even find it impossible to lose to your most healthy weight. More than one study showed that this level is necessary to assure permanent weight loss.
Just like most people need 6 to 8 hours sleep per night and live to be 70 to 80 years old...the number 2000 calories seems to be programmed into us as a necessary amount of activity needed to stay healthy.
How should you do 2000 calories of physical activity per week. I recommend elliptical trainers and/or walking. At a higher level of fitness, weight traing and swimming and other things are great. But, to get to your goal weight, nothing beats walking or elliptical trainers. The elliptical trainer burns calories 3 times faster than lifting weights (and most people use time as reason for not exercising) and will not put the strain on your joints that you get with walking or bicycling. Swimming will not help most people lose significant weight (how many people do you know who lost more than 5 pounds swimming or doing water aerobics?).
The 300 calories that you burn per day will amount to about 50 to 60 minutes of walking (or about 3 miles) for most people. Or you could do about 330 calories 6 days per week. But, you should exercise at least 5 days per week and go for at least 2000 calories per week total (Thomas Jefferson recommended 2 hours of exercise per day). Another simple way to calculate is to work up to a total of 21 miles per week of walking divided any way you want (but no bicycle or roller skates). You can walk, jog, or hop on one foot. I don't care just cover 21 miles per week either on the street or on your elliptical trainer.
I'll tell you the most simple weight loss secret plan I know. I worked as trainer at the YMCA before going to medical school. So counting that time, at the age of 43, I've had more than 20 years of counseling people on weight loss. During those 20 years, I never met anyone who walked or jogged 21 miles or more per week...week after week and month after month...who was over weight. The good news is this only amounts to about one hour per day. During which you could be listening to tapes, watching TV, or reading (if you're using and elliptical trainer).
Exercise does more than burn calories (that's why it's the most important part). Exercise increases serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, thyroid function, body temperature, makes bones stronger, increases concentration, sex drive, and muscle tone, lowers blood pressure, and at the level of 2000 calories per week decreases all cause mortality by 50%.
What if I told you you could get to and stay at your goal weight by watching one hour of TV per day?
You would say great! Which station should I tune to. I'm telling you, "I don't care which station...just make sure you're on your elliptical trainer while you're watching." I even prefer that you split it up. So you could watch 30 minutes of TV in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening (while walking on the elliptical). Even better, this level of walking has been proven to decrease your risk of heart attack by more than does any hypertension drug or any cholesterol drug or any diabetes medication (see my newsletters for references).
Now you're saying, "God wouldn't make us so that the only way we could stay healthy is that we spend 1 hour per day on an elliptical trainer watching TV."
I'd say, "You're right. But, God didn't intend for us to travel by car and gather our food by walking a few steps through the grocery store." So, the best way I know for people to get movement and activity back into their life is to walk a total of one hour per day or 21 miles per week on the street or on your elliptical trainer (working up to this level after talking to your doctor). Make it a religious necessary activity that no one is allowed to interrupt.
2. If you use diet pills, low carbohydrate diets, or even gastroplasty...you must develop new habits while using these tools or you will regain the weight you lost. The most important new habit to develop is habit number 1: 2000 calories per week of physical activity.
3. Learn to use food as an appetite suppressant by eating all of the low calorie foods you want whenever you want. The most simple plan I know is to try and eat at least 5 servings (about one cup or one medium piece of fruit every day.) of either a fruit or vegetable per day.
4. Learn to expect resistance from the people who love you the most as they get used to your new routines. It does not mean that they do not want the best for you. You may just have to lovingly remind them that you can't take care of them if you're not healthy.
5. Watch your environment. You must put good, low calorie foods in your diet if you hope to eat them (you can't eat what is not there). Remove temptation by eating fruit before going out to eat and before going shopping and refuse to buy high calorie foods that you like even if other people in your family want them (what's more important to them...their favorite food or your health?)
6. Keep a simple record of your time walking or using your elliptical trainer and try to work up to a level that burns 2000 calories per week.
7. Use simple low calorie snacks like Balance Bars and Zone Bars and protein shakes when you are pressed for time. You must keep these tools with you if you hope to resist cake and cookies and other things that will be offered to you.
8. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
9. Have at least 3 pieces of fruit or 3 cups of any vegetable by noon. This helps you avoid afternoon hunger.
10. Make health and fitness one of your hobbies. Take care of yourself and it will help you take care of others.
Charles Runels, MD