If your goal is to lose weight, there are thousands of diets, books and food programs out there, offering to help you.
But, if you want to weigh less - not just for a while, but from now on - you need to permanently change your eating habits, reducing your daily average calorie consumption. This can be hard to do with weight loss programs, because they typically require you to give up foods that you have learned to like by eating them for most of your life.
What's the alternative?
Simple - eat less.
Continue to eat the foods you like (assuming they're not harmful to you), but eat less at each meal. You will still look forward to eating, you will still enjoy it, you will still be able to choose the things you like from the menu, but you can weigh less while doing so. Don't believe it? Check out an article published in the Wall Street Journal in February, 2009 (see below) which cited research finding that it is food quantity, not type, that controls weight gain or loss.
You're probably thinking "I can't be bothered with those complicated calorie counting programs." You won't need to be.
Each time you fix yourself a meal, or are served in a restaurant, give a Quarter Back. Leave 1/4 of each portion on your plate (and in your glass - don't forget to cut back on the high calory beverages). This will automatically reduce your calorie intake by 25%. No matter how much or how little you are currently eating.
"Won't I leave the table hungry?" A little, but just for a few days. Pretty soon, your body will be satisfied with the smaller amount of food. And that will put you on the way to permanently changing your eating habits.
"Isn't it wasteful to leave 1/4 of your food uneaten?" Well, yes, if you can avoid it. If you, or the other person that fixes meals for you at home, can reduce the size of your portions, then you won't need to leave the food on your plate. In a restaurant, maybe you can ask the waiter to have the portions delivered to you reduced. Or share with a meal companion. Still, sometimes you may have no choice but to leave food on your plate. But which is worse - being a little wasteful, or weighing more than you want to?
"What happens when I get down to the weight I want to have?" Chances are, as you approach your ideal weight, you'll find that your weight loss slows down. That's a signal that your body is getting about the amount of food it needs each day. By now, your eating habits are probably much different than they were when you began the Quarter Back Diet. And that's exactly what you wanted to happen. Now you are eating food you like each day, but in quantities that let you weigh what you want to weigh. And your appetite is satisfied with this smaller amount of food.
If you find Quarterbacking doesn't do it for you - reduce your weight as much or as quickly as you want - switch to Halfback. Same game, just more agressive.
Now, just keep eating this smaller, appetite satisfying amount of food each day - for the rest of your life.
Personal note. When I first decided to share my successful-for-me dieting technique, I thought about what to call it. Something catchy and easy to remember. I came up with the idea "Quarterback Diet". I wondered if it was a name that hadn't already been used. A quick search of the internet came up with references to pages contaning that phrase, most of them associeted with commercial pills for athletes. One of the references, though, was to a page by Sandy Kallio, Assistant Features Editor, Wisconsin State Journal. She had a dietary advice page headed "Healthy eaters are serving-size savvy", in which she pointed out that Dr. Laurence Crocker of UW Health had coined the term 'quarterback diet' to portray the same concepts I have offered above. There's nothing new in the world.
Ms Kallio's page is no longer on the active internet (Google has it in their cache), but you can click here to see a copy of it from the Google cache.
You aren't what you eat. You're how much.
That's the message from a two-year National Institutes of Health-funded study that assigned 811 overweight people to one of four reduced-calorie diets and found that all trimmed pounds just the same. It didn't matter what foods participants ate, but rather how many calories they consumed.
An intense debate has long raged over which dieting regimen is best. Low carb? High protein? Low fat? But the federal study, one of the longest of its kind, "really goes against the idea that certain foods are the key to weight loss," says Frank Sacks, principal investigator and a professor of cardiovascular-disease prevention at Harvard School of Public Health. "This is a pretty positive message. It gives people a lot of choices to find a diet they can stick with."
The study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, put participants on one of four diets: Two were low fat and two were high fat, and each of these included either a high-protein or an average-protein component. Carbohydrate intake ranged from 35% to 65%. All the diets were low in calories and saturated fat, and high in fiber, and participants were asked to exercise a fixed 90 minutes a week.
Patients, who attended counseling sessions, lost an average of 13 pounds after six months. After two years, they had lost nine pounds on average and trimmed two inches off their waists regardless of which diet they followed. The study, which ended December 2007, was conducted in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and in Baton Rouge, La., at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
In the study, doctors calculated each participant's energy needs, and structured a diet that had 750 fewer calories than would be necessary to fuel his or her activity. Typical diets in the study had between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day.
Rudy Termini, a retiree in Cambridge, Mass., says that before joining the study, he downed about 2,400 calories a day. If he dined on T-bone steak, he'd make it a one-pounder. "I just didn't need all that food," says the 69-year-old and former owner of a telecommunications company.
Mr. Termini, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall, says he dropped to 175 pounds from 195 pounds and lost his "little pot belly" by limiting himself to 1,800 calories a day. He followed the study's higher-fat, average-protein diet (40% fat, 15% protein, and 45% carbohydrates). For fats, he ate avocado, nuts and other sources of unsaturated fat. Mr. Termini says he stuck with the diet because he could eat what he enjoys, but just smaller portions -- his steak choice now is a small fillet. He says he's kept the weight off since the study ended.
The message is that dieting may be "much simpler" than everyone thought, says Catherine Loria, a nutritional epidemiologist at the NIH and co-author of the study. Along with choosing healthful foods, "all you have to do is count your calories."
The findings could influence public policy through efforts to require more disclosure of calorie counts in prepared food, she says. New York City, for instance, recently required chain eateries to put calorie counts on menus. "For the first time, people are seeing that the muffin they used to have in the morning is 400-plus calories, and they're saying, 'Oh my gosh, you have got to be kidding me,'" says Mark Erickson, a dean at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
In the NIH study, participants used a Web-based, self-monitoring tool that tracked how their daily food intake met their calorie goals. Debbie Mayer, of Brockton, Mass., says this helped her stay disciplined. "I'd just see the numbers and say, 'I can't eat anymore today.'"
Tried Many Diets
Ms. Mayer, who is 52 and works at an elder-outreach agency, believes she had made dieting "too complicated." She'd tried the Grapefruit Diet, which claims the fruit has fat-burning properties, and the Zone Diet, which promotes a fixed ratio of food groups. One diet had her spending hours preparing zucchini.
In the NIH study, she was on a lower-fat, higher-protein diet -- 20% fat, 25% protein, 55% carbs -- and consumed 1,400 calories a day. Ms. Mayer, who is about 5 feet tall, says she dropped 50 pounds, going to 129 from 179, and has kept the weight off since the study ended.
Some promoters of specialized diets say calorie counting isn't the key to losing weight. "Measuring your food is not going to work in the long term," says Arthur Agatston, a Miami cardiologist and creator of the South Beach Diet, which focuses on food selection. The first two weeks of the diet, for instance, ban all carbohydrates except vegetables in an effort to reduce food cravings that cause people to overeat, Mr. Agatston says. Although regimens like the South Beach Diet may end up cutting calorie intake, they also aim to break people's unhealthy habits with food.
In an editorial accompanying the NEJM report, Martijn Katan, a nutrition researcher at Amsterdam's VU University, noted that participants had waning success keeping off weight toward the end of the study, suggesting their discipline began slipping. "Evidently, individual treatment is powerless against an environment that offers so many high-calorie foods and labor-saving devices," he said.
Write to Jennifer Levitz at email@example.com
Return to top of page
One Man's Success Story
After trying for many years to control my weight using various diets, and seeing it oscillate from 170 after dieting to 180 while eating regularly, I concluded that no diet that made me eat different foods was going to work for me. I had to change my eating habits permanently, and that meant eating less of what I enjoy.
Several years ago I set a goal of getting my weight from 180 early in the year to under 170 on January 1 - after all the holiday eating - and to do it by controlling quantity, not content. I met the goal, and in so doing established a new eating habit. My weight has drifted on down in the years since to around 165, and even hit 161 earlier this year. I no longer "diet", but just continue to control quantity.
I have found that the "Quarterback Diet" idea helps me to keep the idea of eating smaller portions in mind, even when I am doing the serving. I have also found that it doesn't hurt to really pig out from time to time, like at a Christmas buffet lunch. My long term eating habits are now oriented to the right size portions.
Aug 02, 2009
Return to top of page
By LAVINIA RODRIGUEZ May 15, 2011 Scripps-Howard News Service
It's frustrating to go on a diet, lose weight, then regain it.
Frustrating, but common.
Studies show that 90 percent of dieting attempts fail. Yet diets may be one of the few things that intelligent people will keep trying even after repeated failures.
The problem is that people usually confuse weight loss with fat loss. Actually, the faster the weight is lost, the more likely it is that the weight lost is water or muscle, not fat. But it's fat that people want to lose, and they want to lose it for good.
So don't just go on another diet. First, stop and think.
If you have a long history of on-and-off dieting, it's time to face the fact that what you've been doing doesn't work.
Maybe you've tried a bunch of diets with different names, like the Low-Carb Diet, the Blood-Type Diet, the Grapefruit Diet. But consider what was similar about them. Did they eliminate particular foods completely? Did they emphasize fast weight loss? Did they not include exercise?
If you want your next weight-loss attempt to be your final effort because it actually works, try these tips:
Focus on the behaviors (portion control, increased activity, better nutrition) that help you lose fat, rather than achieving a weight goal number.
Make sure to include consistent aerobic exercise in your plan.
Don't set a time limit for your goal. Instead, keep your mind focused on the forest (the rest of your life) instead of the trees (an upcoming wedding or bathing-suit season).
Don't go on a rigid, stringent, fad diet. If it is deprivation-based, consider something else.
Make sure that the eating and exercise plan you choose is one you can follow for the rest of your life. Are you really going to be able to keep buying expensive food through the mail?
Your body has genetic limits. You don't know whether your body will be able to reach the ultimate weight goal you have in mind. Instead, keep doing what will make you healthier and let your body take care of the weight. It will show you what its best weight is.
Take time to keep your fridge stocked with easy-to-prepare, nutritious alternatives. Get rid of those foods that don't fit a healthy lifestyle and fill the fridge with luscious, colorful, fresh foods. It may require more frequent stops at the grocery store, but fresh food requires less cooking or even no cooking, which saves time in the end.
Reinforce, compliment and pat yourself on the back often. Stop the criticism and judgment. The psychology of weight management is a key factor that is usually ignored.
You don't want to put all that effort into losing weight only to regain it. Do it differently this time.
By RON WINSLOW Jan 04, 2012 Wall Street Journal
Whether you are just starting a New Year's diet or struggling to maintain a healthy weight, a provocative new study offers some timely guidance. It isn't so much what you eat, the study suggests, but how much you eat that counts when it comes to accumulating body fat.
The findings are the latest in a string of studies to challenge claims that the secret to healthy weight loss lies in adjusting the amount of nutritional components of a diet—protein, fat and carbohydrates.
The diet industry has offered dozens of strategies recommending raising or lowering carbohydrates, protein or fat.
In the study, to be published in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 25 young, healthy men and women were deliberately fed nearly 1,000 excess calories a day for 56 days, but with diets that varied in the amounts of protein and fat.
While those on a low-protein diet—about 5% of total calories—gained
less weight than those on a normal- or high-protein regimen, body fat among
participants in all three groups increased by about the same amount. Typical
protein consumption is about 15% of calories, while the U.S. government recommends
it make up between 17% and 21% of total daily calories.
A woman stands on a scale during her weekly weigh-in at the Wellspring Academy, a California school to help teens lose weight.
"The body was confronted with excess calories, but it didn't care where they came from," said George Bray, a researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La., and lead author of the report. "The only thing it can do is put them into fat."
The findings suggest that it matters little whether a diet is high or low in fat, carbohydrates or protein, it's calories that build body fat.
"That's a very important message," said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez,
an obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., who wasn't involved
with the study. "Weight gain depends primarily on excess calories, regardless
of the composition of the meal."
More than 60% of U.S. adults are considered overweight and more than 30% are obese, defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher.
There was a potentially detrimental effect of the low-protein diet: Participants had a reduction in levels of lean body mass. Those whose diet was 15% or 25% protein had an increase in lean body mass, a reason why they gained more weight than those on low-protein fare.
"There is no health-related benefit to a reduction in lean body mass," said Dr. Bray. "That's not what you want to happen."
BMI, a calculation based on height and weight, is widely used to describe the weight status of a population. But it is increasingly controversial when used to assess the health of individual patients.
Edward Livingston, a gastrointestinal surgeon and researcher at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said the fact that patients in the study gained less weight on a low-protein diet but still accumulated substantial body fat suggests relying on BMI measurement may be misleading patients and doctors about obesity risk.
"If your diet is poor, it might be the fat that hurts you," said Dr. Livingston, who wasn't involved in the latest study.
"You can't just look at BMI. That's a function of your body weight. You ought to be looking at the fat," he said, and not just body weight.
The patients in the Pennington study ranged in age from 18 to 35 and had BMIs between 19 and 30. (Between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.)
They lived at the center's metabolic unit for between 10 and 12 weeks and were fed the 1,000 extra calories a day for the final eight weeks of their stay.
Dr. Bray said the more than 50,000 extra calories were roughly equivalent to the excess calories the average American consumes over a decade.
"It was quite a load," he said, but if they spread the calories out over a longer time "it would take us years to see the changes."
Carbohydrates were held steady at about 41% to 42% of calories while fat levels varied with the protein regimen.
Regular exercise wasn't part of the participants' routine. Physical activity was controlled and participants were monitored to make sure they ate all the food they were given.
After eight weeks, all participants in the study gained weight. The 16 men and nine women made similar gains. The low protein-diet group gained about seven pounds, about half the 13.3 pounds added on by the normal protein participants and 14.4 pounds put on by the high protein group.
Researchers said that previous studies had led them to expect that a high-protein diet would lead to lower weight gain. Yet despite the differences in protein and fat intake, the level of body fat increased by essentially the same amount among all the participants.
Turkey, chicken, tuna and pork chops were among the protein sources. The menu items were the same for each participant, Dr. Bray said, but a participant on the low-protein diet would have gotten more mayonnaise and less tuna in a tuna fish salad, while the high-protein diet was extra tuna with little mayonnaise.
An editorial accompanying the study said that because the diet increase "the risks of overnutrition beyond that detected by body mass index…the magnitude of the obesity epidemic may have been underestimated."
The editorial, by Zhaoping Li and David Heber of the Center for Human Nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, urged clinicians to focus on "fat reduction rather than simply weight loss" in treating patients with obesity.
Write to Ron Winslow at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Melanie Polk, M.M.Sc., R.D., F.A.D.A.
Many weight-loss eating plans focus on what foods to eat. But, the key to slimming down isn't always what we eat — sometimes it's how much.
Over the years, portion sizes in America have grown — along with our waistlines. These pumped-up portions deliver a lot of extra calories. For example, the average bagel today is 6 inches wide and about 350 calories. That's 210 more calories than the typical 3-inch bagel of 20 years ago. And, some may be even bigger and higher in calories.
Have an eye for size
One easy way to be more portion-savvy is to use everyday objects to estimate a reasonable serving. Here's a quick guide for some common foods:
|A serving:||Roughly the size of:|
|3 ounces of cooked meat, fish or poultry||A computer mouse or a deck of cards|
|1 ounce of cheese||Your thumb|
|1 cup of milk or yogurt||A baseball|
|1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta||Half a baseball or one ice cream scoop|
|1 tablespoon of peanut butter||A marshmallow|
Dishing up more portion pointers
Here are some additional tips you can use to cut calories wisely:
Plate up. Avoid mindless munching by eating from dishware only — never from packages. And, make it a habit to sit down at the table when you eat.
Let your eyes deceive you. Use smaller plates and bowls. This can make you feel like you're getting plenty. And, fill at least half your plate with low-calorie, nonstarchy veggies, such as broccoli or a green, leafy salad.
Spoil your appetite. Drink a large glass of water before meals. Or, sip a broth-based soup.
Dawdle at dinner. Eat slowly. Give your stomach the chance to tell your brain you're full.
Getting it 'just right'
Maybe you want to hone your portion-wise skills even further. It may help to weigh or measure out servings for a while. Use a kitchen scale and measuring cups and spoons.
Do you want to learn more about reasonable portions? You can download a free brochure — from the Weight-control Information Network.
More secrets for success
Discover tips and tools for weight control at myuhc.com. Click Health & Wellness > Learn > Weight Management.