Slow and steady wins weight-loss race


August 20, 1991|By Colleen Pierre, R.D.

"My daughter is losing weight by eating 2,000 calories a day, and exercising regularly.

"She's not losing fast -- just a quarter to a half pound a week.

"She exercises for about an hour each day, alternating free-weight workouts with aerobic conditioning on equipment such as stair climbers or stationary bikes. And she eats 2,000 calories a day of healthy, good-for-you food that includes six ounces of lean meat, chicken or fish, three servings of non-fat dairy foods, plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread products, just a few teaspoons of added fat each day, and a little sweet treat every now and then. She is never starving, so she doesn't binge."

This real life example embodies the principles of weight management currently being promoted by a number of scientific organizations. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines, published last fall by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, suggested slowing weight loss to a rate of no more than one-half to one pound a week.

A June article in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed data from the Framingham heart study, which shows that yo-yo dieters, people who repeatedly lose then regain weight, are twice as likely to face heart disease and death than people with stable weight. This holds true for thin as well as obese people, and is most prevalent among women ages 30 to 44.

Other studies have shown that starvation-type dieting triggers binge eating, resulting in lost weight being regained. In fact, despite our national obsession with dieting, we are getting fatter and fatter.

Given the mounting evidence that we would all be better off dieting less, eating more and getting a little exercise, you would think we'd breathe a collective sigh of relief, then relax and enjoy life.

But old habits die hard.

I am continually amazed at the number of people who listen to all that, say they agree with it, then suggest I help them with "just one more quick weight loss diet to get back to normal, and then I'll eat right."

The crux of the matter, of course, is that you're not going to get back to normal until you learn to eat normally every day.

In 1970, Roy Ald wrote "The Skinny Look Cook Book" in which he suggested we all learn "to live it, not die it." That was sage advice then and it still applies today.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

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