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Employee and Family Assistance Programs
For Employees and Families: Your EFAP

The Dieting Merry-Go-Round

March 2004

Frustrated about your weight? Confused by the twists and turns of following fad diets like The Zone, Eating for Your Type, or the Atkins Revolution? The reality is, there are literally hundreds of too-good-to-be-true diets that boast a quick fix for weight loss. Unfortunately most of them omit certain food groups or require extreme restrictions to your food intake.

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you have to follow an eating plan you can live withfor a lifetime. That means no severe restrictions, no extreme hunger and no fads. Here are a few tips that could help you stop and get off the dieting merry-go-round.

Change your perspective. Realize that weight management isnt a short-term goal but a life-term goal. By doing this you can better commit to the idea of balance and change in how and what you eat. Begin by slowly adopting new eating habits as part of a routine that you can live with. For example, bring a healthy lunch to work three days per week or indulge yourself with low-fat desserts or drink water instead of soft drinks when youre thirsty.

Be realistic. The average adult gains one to three pounds per year. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So what makes you think you can take it all off in just a few weeks? Slow and steady is best unless your doctor feels your health condition could benefit from more rapid weight loss. Expect to lose about a pound or two a week. Weight loss at this rate is comprised mostly of fat (not fluid) and has a much better chance of staying off.

Spot the fad diets. Fad diets come and goand so does your weight. Before starting on any diet program, make sure that:

  • the diet is based on more than a single study;
  • dramatic statements about results, are not refuted by reputable health organizations;
  • the program is not associated with a product sell;
  • the plan does not ignore the uniqueness of individuals; and
  • all major food groups are built into the plans daily food consumption.

For more information visit Canadas Food Guide to Healthy Eating at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpfb-dgpsa/onpp-bppn/food_guide_rainbow_e.html

Make every meal count. Bypassing mealsespecially breakfastto save calories is a bad idea since youre likely to over-compensate (binge) at other times during the day. Besides, you can actually lose weight by eating breakfast. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to carry less weight than those who do not. Why? Because a healthy breakfast keeps blood sugar and hormone levels stable while the metabolism buzzes along at a higher level, burning more calories. (Tip: If you dont particularly enjoy breakfast remember breakfast doesnt necessarily have to be a traditional breakfast food).

Resist emotional eating. Emotional eating is consuming large quantities of comfort or junk food to try to heal an emotional situation. Not only does this lead to weight management problems, it can also prevent us from dealing with, or resolving the situation that is driving us to eat. You can help by recognizing that this type of eating is in response to feelings instead of hunger, and by identifying your eating triggers. Keep a diary of what and when you eat and identify your thoughts and feelings. You may begin to see a pattern of emotional eating. Then talk to a doctor, nutritionist and/or counsellor to help you learn how to substitute food with more appropriate management techniques. The alternatives could keep you happier both physically and emotionally.

Be a strategy-safe dieter. In your dieting plan include flexible food choices, weight goals set by a health professional, the recommended daily allowances for vitamins and minerals and a long-term approach to weight maintenance. Plans should also improve overall eating habits, increase physical activity, and modify lifestyle habits that may contribute to weight gain. Consult with your doctor if you plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds, have any health problems, or take any medication on a regular basis.

Get moving! Daily exercise burns calories and suppresses the appetite. It also improves your sense of wellbeing and decreases stress (which often leads to overeating). Determine what type of physical activity best suits your lifestyle by considering if you enjoy the outdoors or prefer indoor activities. Also take into account social aspects such as your preference for time alone to think and reflect or participating in activities with others?

If youre not used to physical activity, start at an easy pace and work your way up to more intense exercise. Start with a brisk walk, a short jog or moderate swimming. Its recommended to gradually work towards 30 to 60 minutes of daily activity. Also try to incorporate some simple calorie-burners into your everyday routine.

Choose a plan for YOU. A weight loss plan has to be practical. Picture yourself sticking to the plan for the rest of your life. If you can't see yourself on a certain plan longer than a few days or weeks, then chances are it's not for you. Move on. Everyone is different and you need to listen to your own unique needs. Learn which plans work for you: which ones make you feel energetic; which ones make you feel tired; which ones put you on a merry-go-round of cravings; and which ones don't. Finding the right way to lose and maintain weight shouldnt be a quest of trial and error, tribulations and defeat, but a journey of self-discovery. Its a personal way of life.

Need more information on nutrition-related issues? Call to see if you are eligible for WS Nutrition Matters. A Registered Dietitian can address any questions, help you create a healthy eating program and support you in achieving your nutritional goals. Call your EAP at 1.800.387.4765 for service in English or 1.800.361.5676 for service in French.

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