NORMAN — Q: I have been really overwhelmed with the number of weight loss contests around. I’m not really “fat” so I don’t think I would win the contest but would still like to participate. Are there any reasons not to do it?
A: No, there are not any significant reasons not to participate as long as you have the OK from your physician. You are right. “Biggest Loser” has really motivated a lot of companies and individuals to develop similar contests to encourage people to lose weight. You will need to remember, however, that what we see in a matter of one season on “Biggest Loser” actually took around nine months or more to complete. Do not expect to have the same results in the typical six to eight week programs that your job or gym may sponsor. Benefits will vary on the individual and their health issues.
You may not be significantly overweight but even a moderately elevated BMI does increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers (especially endometrial, breast and colon), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceries, liver and gallbladder issues, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, difficulty with regulating menstrual cycles or infertility and even depression. Of course, an elevated BMI is not the only predictor of such issues. Even someone with a normal BMI may still be at risk for these diseases, especially if there is a strong family history, so an exercise and healthful diet routine is not going to hurt. Weight loss is not the sole reason for participating in these contests; they should really be a starting point and motivational tool for making positive lifestyle changes.
There are a few things to keep in mind before starting such a program. “Biggest Loser” contestants have meals prepared for them and have a registered dietitian to guide their meal planning. If you have to plan meals on your own, it will be important to avoid falling prey to fad diets. Not only could they thwart your weight loss plans but making severe changes in your diet — when amping up your exercise — could be dangerous. Be cautious about anyone encouraging you to take magic weight loss pills, especially when they do not know your medical history.
Remember that the goal should be to make healthful changes that can be maintained throughout your life in order to achieve steady weight loss, normalize blood pressure, improve lipid profiles and reduce your risk of the diseases previously mentioned. Losing weight too quickly or by unconventional methods is likely to backfire and put you in a position of gaining more weight back or even alter your metabolic processes to the point of affecting heart rates and increasing the chance of having a negative response to exercise.
· Maintain adequate water intake and make gradual reductions in caffeine.
· Work on getting fruits, vegetables and good fats in at every meal; begin changing starches to their whole grains.
· Experiment with recipes and new foods. Check out the produce department and pick up at least one new vegetable to try.
· Get a partner to help keep you motivated and energized, especially when it comes to exercise. Even if you can’t meet to exercise, you can still be accountable to one another by scheduling a time to exercise “together” but in your own home or own gym. Accountability is the important aspect of having a partner.
· Find a good food tracking program to ensure you are eating adequate calories to keep your body from going into a starvation mode, therefore storing fat instead of letting you get rid of it. There are many smart phone apps (I like MyFitness Pal) but a notebook and a pencil work well too!
Good luck in your endeavor and don’t get stuck on the numbers. The scale is not the only predictor of health. If you feel better and are proud of the changes you are making, it will be evident in many other ways.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.