American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Tips for Safe Weight Loss


​If you're starting a weight loss program, it's a good idea to seek the advice of a physician and keep in mind two key elements to healthy weight loss: nutrition and exercise.

Tips for Eating Right

Craig M. Wax, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing in New Jersey, says one of the essential actions to take in creating a healthier diet is to replace simple carbohydrates (such as sugars and simple starches) and fats with complex carbohydrates and fiber. That means eating more foods like wheat bread, bran cereal, oatmeal, and brown rice.

In addition to reducing your intake of simple carbohydrates and fats, you need to make sure you eat a balanced diet. The recommended intake from the five basic food groups is found on ChooseMyPlate, a nutritional guide developed by the United States Dietary Association and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. As shown in the illustration, your plate should be half fruits and vegetables. It's recommended that half your grains be whole grains; as for proteins and dairy, it's good idea to eat varied proteins and drink 1% or skim milk.

Besides eating a balanced diet, it's important to read labels on food products. Remember to aim for the recommended daily value for carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. To obtain the daily recommended values, consult your physician or ChooseMyPlate.

Exercising for Weight Loss

You don't have to become a cross-country skier, Olympic swimmer, or a Wimbledon champ to lose weight. But you do need to get up off the couch.

According to Dr. Wax, exercising at least 30 minutes a dayor even every other dayalong with proper warm-up and cool-down periods, is an essential part of proper weight loss.

"I suggest my 'good sweat rule' to patients," says Dr. Wax. "If you can work up a good sweat for 30 minutes, and hold a conversation during that time without being out of breath, you are giving your body a proper workout for cardiovascular fitness and weight loss."

Try swimming, speed walking, bicycle riding, or jogging. Join a health club and commit yourself to working out no fewer than three days a week. Exercise during the winter months even if you live in cold climates. If you're not able to excercise at a gym, try walking to work, walking during lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the store when shopping.

Forget About Shortcuts

"Conventional wisdom holds true," explains Dr. Wax, "Healthy diet and exercise are the cornerstones of proper weight management. "

Despite the warnings from physicians about taking not short cuts to weight loss, many people choose fad diets, go on starvation diets, skip meals, or take diet pills.

"Most people know that starving themselves or trying fad diets are bad ideas," says Dr. Wax. "But some are being influenced by advertisements for popular diet drugs that promise a 'natural' way to shed pounds quickly."

Many of these diet pills are available over-the-counter and are never reviewed or approved by the FDA. Taking some of these pills can be risky business, cautions Dr. Wax. "You generally will be taking a product that has not been truly tested," he warns. "For one thing, the product might not even work. But worse yet, you have no idea what risky side effects the pill can cause. As a consumer, you need to be aware of the risks and benefits of any medicine or supplement before taking it."

Most diet pills induce weight loss because they produce stimulant, diuretic, or laxative effects. Although they enable the user to shed water weight (which can be unhealthy), they do not assist the body in long-term weight loss, fat loss, or health management. In addition, several diet pills are so full of caffeine they can speed up the heart rate significantly. This can lead to heart palpitations and shortness of breath. And after the effect of the pill begins to wear off, you may experience fatigue.

Weight Loss Takes Time

Whatever kind of exercise and nutrition plans you opt for, don't become discouraged if the pounds refuse to drop off right away. Proper weight loss takes time. If you lose even a few pounds per month, you are losing weight safely. Going for more gradual, safer weight loss also means that you are more likely to keep weight off. People who choose fad diets or dietary aids are more prone to gaining back the weight before long.

"Ultimately, people have to become responsible for their own health by teaching themselves better habits," notes Dr. Wax. "By making healthy nutrition and exercise choices early in life, you may be able to avoid serious health problems when you are older, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity."​​


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