A Healthy Wait

Sustainable weight management typically means losing only 0.5 to 2 pounds per week

It happens every year—commercials in springtime tell us we have to get our beach body ready in time for summer. Even if you’ve pulled off such a transformation through drastic changes, you’ve most likely seen the weight come back on before the first day of fall. Only now your metabolism is out of whack and you’ve lost muscle mass. Without a new approach, you’re setting yourself up for the same thing to happen next summer.

“If you are unsatisfied with your weight, remember that you didn’t get that way overnight,” says Julia Babos, outpatient dietitian and education specialist at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “The same is true in reverse. There’s no quick fix.”

Research has shown that gradual, steady weight loss of about a half-pound to two pounds per week is likely to last longer than losing several pounds quickly. That may sound like a snail’s pace, but you will be gaining knowledge and achieving goals along the way.

Steady Build

“If you lose a lot of weight super fast, you can also lose muscle mass,” Babos explains. “I don’t think everyone realizes that. It is already challenging to gain muscle, especially as you get older. So you don’t want to lose muscle that you already have.”

Babos understands the emotions behind trying to lose weight quickly.

“Some of my clients are frustrated when I first meet them,” Babos says. “They want the weight off now. But that same frustration can lead to quitting because you are trying to change too much at once and feeling like a failure.”

Understanding all of the factors involved in weight management can help you set and achieve small goals. Healthy habits are not just about what you eat, but when, how much, and in what combinations. Babos will often begin with meal frequency and how that affects metabolism and blood sugar.

“Skipping meals can lead to overeating or making carb-heavy choices later,” she says. “So a goal for a client could be to simply start having breakfast each day. And they realize, ‘I can do that. I can wrap my mind around that.’ That begins a year of small, achievable goals that can be built upon.”

Pick Your Numbers

Babos encourages her clients to not only focus on the numbers on the scale. There are other ways to measure success.

“Look at your lab results and see how they improve,” she says. “You may see your measurements getting smaller even though you weigh about the same. You may notice that your clothes feel better.”

But if you can’t resist stepping on the scale, at least know that there is a right way to do it.

“Pick one time a day, perhaps first thing in the morning, and stick to that one time,” Babos says. “Wear the same thing—or nothing—each time as well. Because with water weight and other factors, your scale numbers will definitely fluctuate. The key is to look at the trend over time. Maybe in the past two weeks you gained a pound, but what is the trend over four months? If it is trending down, you are making progress.”

Normal Life

Paradoxically, one of the best signs that your new approach is working well is that you don’t feel any different at all.

“Ideally, after a year, you have created new habits and are just living your normal life,” Babos says. “You’re not cutting out your favorite foods. You’re not depriving yourself in May so you can reach a certain weight by June. And yet, in comparison to the year prior, you may have lost 20 to 30 pounds.”

Babos has seen that once good habits are second nature, her clients start to make new connections based on how they feel rather than just what the scale says. This allows them to continue to improve at a sustainable pace.

“When you make the connection of how one food item makes you feel sluggish and tired while another item doesn’t, it makes it easier to make the healthier choice,” she says. “You’re not forcing a goal anymore. You are just living your life.”

Nutritional counseling and classes are just part of the services offered at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Wellness Center. There are all the amenities you’d expect from a gym plus personal training, group fitness classes and even massage therapy. Call 912-819-8800 to learn more. 

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