Years ago, doctors believed that a low-calorie diet was all that anyone needed to attain a healthy weight level — even if they were extremely overweight to begin. Recent research, though, has pointed in a different direction. It is now believed that morbid obesity, a term that describes those who are more than 100 pounds overweight, cannot be helped simply with a healthy diet. Effective weight loss requires other forms of action in addition — lifestyle modifications, an exercise regimen and sometimes, when all else fails, medication or surgery.

The first step: designing a nutritious low-calorie diet

The first step to designing an effective low-calorie diet is to work out what your nutritional needs are. The American Academy of Nutrition Dietetics recommends 10 calories for every pound of body weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, for instance, you need to make sure that your diet gives you 2,000 calories each day — no more, no less.

It matters how exactly your body receives the calories that it needs. Eating 2,000 calories’ worth of sugar (slightly more than a pound) will obviously not do the same thing for your health as calories derived from a healthy mixture of greens, grain and fruit. Here’s a short guide on how to plan out your meals.

Carbohydrates: Whatever your target caloric intake is, multiply it by 0.00375 to find out how many ounces of carbohydrates you should put in your diet each day. For instance, if you aim for a 2,000-calorie diet: you should multiply 2,000 by 0.00375 to arrive at 7.5 ounces. You can choose grain or vegetables for your carbohydrates.

Protein: To find out how much protein to allow yourself, multiply the calorie figure that you have by 0.00187. For 2,000 calories, then, you can allow yourself 3.75 ounces of poultry, eggs, beans, meat and other protein sources. These will amount to half your caloric intake each day.

Fat: You can determine your allowed fat intake with a similar formula — multiply your calorie figure by 0.00094. This will work out to a quarter of your daily caloric intake.

Try behavior modification

A propensity to gain weight is often caused by certain innate preferences, and the way the body reacts to them. For instance, while other people may not overeat if they sit down to dinner in front of the TV, you might. You might overeat when certain foods are within reach, after a skipped meal or when friends come to visit you.  It’s important to analyze your behavior carefully, and to avoid any trigger that pushes you to overeat.

Aim for healthy foods

Before you begin to rein your appetite in, it could be a good idea to begin switching most of your diet away from calorie-rich foods such as meat and dairy, to vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts. When you overeat with these foods, it doesn’t do much harm.

Draw up a healthy exercise schedule

As important as it is to keep in check what you put into your body, exercise helps you burn away what does get in. A well-thought out exercise schedule, then, is one of the best ways to get started with steady weight loss. You should realize, though, that you don’t need to push yourself hard at first. Holding yourself to a taxing exercise schedule can keep you from wanting to even get started each day. Instead, you can simply do whatever feels comfortable. Doing anything at all is much better than aiming for an intense workout, and then completely backing out.

When the regular approach doesn’t work

If altering your diet and your lifestyle do not help you lose weight, you can have your doctor write you out a prescription for proven weight-loss drugs such as Contrave, Orlistat or Belviq. These medications work either by suppressing your appetite or by making it difficult for the body to absorb fat.

Finally, if all else fails, surgery can be a very effective alternative. With bariatric surgery costs, insurance companies tend to pick up the bill. They tend to see obesity as a genuine health problem that one has little control over.

Most people who are overweight do not need surgical intervention, though. All they need is a will to choose life and work their weight down.

Maria Walden was once morbidly obese. An avid blogger, she likes to share her journey in hopes of helping those just starting out. You can read her illuminating articles on many of today’s top websites and blogs.

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