Published August 2008, Senior Digest
Not only are food and gasoline prices skyrocketing nationwide, a growing number of Americans with bulging waist lines are watching their weight steadily increase, too. Those overweight see diets as a remedy to drop the pounds. But to most, finding the right weight loss strategy is at most confusing and difficult to follow.
For over forty years, Donald Grebien, a supply chain manager at the Mansfield, Massachusetts-based American Insulated Wire Corp.(AIW), has always struggled with his waistline. In high school, Grebien recalls being a ‘chubby senior’, weighing as much as 280 pounds. Even though he managed to shed 30 pounds through regular exercise, eliminating snacks and eating healthy foods, it is still a daily struggle.
Grebien’s weight would fluctuate throughout his middle age because of a variety of factors. His family obligations of raising two small children, combined with the pressures of being a Pawtucket City Councilman, made it extremely difficult for the young man to successfully stick with a diet. It was not until this young City Councilman was faced with high blood pressure, that would ultimately force him to confront his weight issue.
“Losing weight is a daily battle for me,” says Grebien, who noted that when his weight spiked, it was very uncomfortable wearing tight-fitting clothes.
Joining Weight Watchers with his wife, Laureen has made a world of difference to Grebien. He has maintained his weight loss of 10.3 pounds for the last 10 weeks. “I am on track and feel a lot better,” he says, even noting that his waist line seems to be shrinking a bit. His workplace even supports his dieting efforts, such as offering on site Weight Watcher classes, a nutrition newsletter and promoting employees walking during their lunch hours.
While Grebien is tackling his weight problem through the support of his wife and belonging to a community weight loss program, finding the right diet plan or strategy can be difficult chore for many.
Tips on Losing Weight
“Get responsible and sound advice about dieting before you begin,” recommends Randi Belhumeur, a Registered Dietitian who serves as statewide nutrition coordinator for the Rhode Island Health Department’s Initiative for Healthy Weight. There is no major expense for the consultation because most health plans now cover nutritional counseling as long as you have a medical diagnoses (including high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes), she says.
Belhumeur says that a nutritionist can provide specifics as to serving sizes, label reading, meal planning and weight loss goal setting. When setting your weight loss goals, “always start with small goals that are realistic for you,” she says. “Losing a pound or two a week is considered by medical experts to be a safe weight loss,” she adds.
“Don’t forget to dovetail physical activity into your weight loss goals,” suggests Belhumeur. “If a pedometer tells you that you that the baseline number of steps you take a day is 2,000, increase that number by 1,000 steps,” she says.
“Always keep an ‘activity and food journal’ also,” adds Belhumeur, who stresses that the documentation will be critical to your losing and maintaining your weight loss. “You really need to be honest with yourself when you are writing the details down. Journaling will help you make better food choices and make you aware of what you are eating,” she says.
Belhumeur also recommends to plan exercising each week by scheduling the time in your Black Berry, Palm Pilot or in your schedule book. “With exercise, find something you enjoy doing. If you don’t like going to the gym, you just won’t go.”
Social support from family and friends is also very crucial in your efforts to successfully lose weight, notes Belhumeur. “Weight Watchers is one of the few responsible diet programs that offers group support and sound dieting advice,” she says.
Finally, Belhumeur says, “Don’t forget the behavioral component of weight loss.” Psychotherapy or nutritional counseling can be helpful to changing a behavior, like night time eating or eating unhealthy foods at the workplace. .
Weight Loss and Lifestyle Changes
Ray Rickman, senior consultant, for Rhode Island’s Shape Up RI Program, a state-wide exercise and weight challenge program, is not a fan of dieting. His nonprofit group helps participants improve their health and lifestyle by increasing their physical activity levels and developing smart eating habits.
Supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Life Span, over 12,000 Rhode Islanders, in 13,000 teams participate to see who can lose the greatest percentage of collective team weight, log the most hours of physical activity, and walk the highest number of pedometer steps over a twelve week period.
The fifty-five year old Eastsider and State Legislator has lost over 20 pounds by following his nonprofit group’s philosophy of reducing daily calorie intake and daily exercise.
According to Rickman, people become overweight or obese because of their lifestyle and not from medical or chemical imbalance.
“Most diets you just starve yourself or you eat foods you don’t like,” Rickman says. “While many people can lose weight by dieting, they usually regain all the weight back within 12 months.”
“We consume more food than the body can rid itself of, where portion sizes are increasing”, say Rickman, noting that an ‘unhealthy life style and poor eating’ causes weight gain. Almost 50 years ago, a typical orange juice serving was 250 calories; today a larger glass increases the calories to 800, he adds.
“In every area of our lives we try to find ways to not exercise,” Rickman notes. “Go into a four story building and you will see people waiting for an elevator to go to the second floor, rather than just walking up two flights of stairs. Or watch shoppers wait for a parking space close to the grocery store’s entrance rather than parking farther away.”
To successfully lose weight, find out how many calories you need a day, based on your height and weight, Rickman recommends. “ He estimates that eating 200 fewer calories along with exercise will help you lose a 1/16 of a pound a day. In just one month , a person can lose 2 pounds. In one year, you can expect to lose at least 25 pounds.
Exercise does not have to be grueling. Rickman says, “Go to the grocery store and park in the last spot on the lot where the employees park. By doing this you can lose 1/36 of a pound by choosing not to park near the entrance. Walking up three flights of stairs will also help you lose 1/36 of a pound.
Brown Medical Student, Rajiv Kumar, Founder of Shape Up RI program, sees long-term sustained weight loss for those participating in his program. The average weight loss per person is 10 pounds with preliminary research indicating that 70 percent of the participants have kept their weight off for six months.
For chronic dieters like Grebien (or this writer) who work daily to shed pounds, the secret to successfully losing and maintaining weight loss may well be tied to healthy eating habits, exercise and an active social network to create accountability and motivation, It’s as simple as that.
Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based health care writer who covers aging, health care, and medical issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appeared in August 2008 issue of Senior Digest.