Ten Guidelines for Effective Weight Management

Many people ask me what they should do to lose weight.  The better question is what should I do to manage my weight so I don’t gain unnecessary pounds, yet I have enough energy to do the things I want to do, such as run, walk, or jog recreationally.

It turns out that fit individuals usually abide by a set of weight management guidelines that govern their daily eating.  The following ten weight management guidelines will give you an idea of what they tell themselves about their eating.  You shouldn’t expect to abide by all of these guidelines immediately, but you should use them as a starting point for thinking about your current nutritional regimen.

One: Raise your metabolic level with daily exercise. Aerobic exercise burns energy and weight lifting builds muscle that burns energy. Don’t guilt-trip yourself about missing a day of exercise; and don’t obsess about it, either. Do exercise activities that you enjoy.

Two: Adjust your eating to your exercise level.  Lots of exercise allows you to eat more, which is important because we need a variety of nutriments in our diet.  If you overeat one day; under-eat the next (it’s called a mini-diet).  Otherwise, don’t diet.

Three: Have three small meals and one snack every day.  Never miss a meal.  A hungry body turns much of what you eat to fat as a hedge against what it perceives to be starvation.  Have real meals, consisting of whole foods which are good for you.  Avoid the junk food solution.  Desert food counts for calories, but it doesn’t make a meal.

Four: Eat when your body tells you it’s time to eat.  Don’t eat between meals or when others tell you it’s time to eat.  Never allow yourself to become hungry or starved.

Five: Eat minimally—until you are satisfied; not until you are full or stuffed.  All centenarians have one thing in common: they eat 1500 calories a day.  Americans, by contrast, average 3000+ calories a day.  Know your optimum meal portion.  Don’t exceed it.  Eat just enough to last you until the next meal time—about three or four hours.

Six: Don’t rush your meals.  Allow yourself real meal breaks.  Eat slowly/chew your food a lot.  Overweight people don’t chew; they merely position their food for swallowing.  Have a life.  Your work will be there when you finish eating.  Read a good book while you eat.

Seven: Eat a variety of foods that you enjoy.  Eat fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.  Build them into your daily meal routine.  Eat fruit for breakfast.  Eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  Note on body composition:  If you eat 25% fat, your body will be 25% fat.  Same with 30%.  Don’t regularly buy or have any or the following around: ice cream, soda, booze.  Caveat: You can eat or drink anything, as long as you don’t consume a lot of it.

Eight: Substitute good foods for bad in your diet.  This is a life-long process and part of the fun and challenge of learning about nutrition and how it applies to you.  Pay attention to foods that make you feel good (i.e., they give you more health and energy, as opposed to making you feel good emotionally, but bad physically).  Avoid eating comfort foods just because they are comfort foods.

Nine:  Be responsible for buying, preparing and portioning your meals.  Your health and fitness depend on what you eat; it’s your responsibility. Therefore, even if others want to do the buying, preparing, and portioning of your food for you, you must take control of your life by deciding what you will eat, when you will eat, and how much you will eat.

Ten: Be aware of your fitness mission/identity.  Life is transformational.  As such, you are becoming an endurance athlete.  What do you want to look like?  How do you want to feel?  How much are you at stake for being fit?  What happens if you do a good job at it?  What happens if you mess it up?