Weight Loss 101

Use your brain, not a bottle.

By Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Like Lance Armstrong and the last-place Orioles, weight-loss pills have taken a beating in 2010. German researchers tested nine diet supplements and declared them all duds. An advisory committee suggested that the Food and Drug Administration reject a new diet drug called Qnexa. And the FDA forced two popular pounds-off pills (prescription Xenical and its over-the-counter sibling, Alli) to carry warnings about liver problems.

Yet for the right person, the right weight-loss drug isn’t a wimpy way out. It can be as life-changing as switching from a desktop dial-up to a wi-fi iPad: Suddenly, everything you’ve been struggling to do is sooo much easier! That said, if you’re like most people, you can get a snazzy new body and save a bundle on pills by using your brain to diet smart instead of hard.

Why your brain? Weight loss is NOT as simple as “eat less and exercise more.” (If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this.) You need smart ways to get you over the humps, around the cravings, past the stalled bathroom scale and through the temptation to binge when you’re done.

That’s what we’ve got here: five brainy ways to take it off and keep it off.

8 What matters isn’t the double-dip mint-chip ice cream cone, it’s what happens next. Our first rule of successful weight loss is memorizing this mantra: “At the next available moment, make an authorized YOU-turn.” Because you are going to slip up now and then. Brainy solution: Have a plan ready to mop up the calories (and maybe some tears, too; emotional eating’s a big reason for mistakes). Keep your favorite fruits and cut-up veggies in the fridge, and munch on those instead of biting off your spouse’s head. Or do some yoga or take a quick stroll, all the while repeating the mantra and visualizing your soon-to-be-hot body.

8Insist on healthy, delicious food. One reason: If you only have healthy food around, you’ll only eat healthy food. Another: Yes, you can find lower-calorie stuff at the drive-through and in the dessert case these days, but whatever pounds-off plan you choose should be based on fresh, healthy food. It will make your energy levels and taste buds much happier than highly processed diet-to-go fare: Focus on juicy fruits and crisp veggies; 100 percent whole grains (just-baked whole-wheat bread); lean protein (herbed salmon, lemon-thyme chicken); good fats (olive oil, walnuts, avocados); and fat-free versions of dairy (Greek yogurt, feta). If you’re a woman who swears that the only way pounds come off is by cutting out fruit, breads, noodles — you know, carbs — you’re onto something. New research shows that for women who have signs of insulin resistance (a wide waistline and climbing blood pressure and triglycerides), a low-carb diet boosted weight loss 21 percent more than a low-fat plan. Just don’t replace carbs with burgers, bacon, salami and steak. Their saturated fats and preservatives raise your diabetes risk. Go for naked chicken, fish, beans and nuts.

8 Exercise more and sit less. You need to do both. Your 30-minute daily walk burns calories and tunes up your heart, lungs and muscles. But it can’t compensate for sitting around the other 23.5 hours. Dust off that exercise bike, and drag it in front of the TV. Only turn the TV on when you’re spinning your wheels. Once that’s a habit, do some push-ups and sit-ups when commercials come on.

8Don’t be afraid to ask for medical help. If despite your best efforts to eat smart and move more, your weight’s still high enough to threaten your health, medications can make a vital difference. For example, the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) can help struggling dieters succeed in the same way it helps smokers quit: It gets you over the hump. If you’re obese and all the diets, gyms and meds in the world haven’t budged the bulge – and now you’re dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease – gastric banding surgery (like Lap-Band) can help. For more, check “The Medical Options” in our new edition of “YOU: On a Diet.”

8Back in your skinny jeans? Launch phase 2. Don’t backslide into fudge sundaes and TV marathons. Keep your trim hips and flat belly by joining an online support group. In one study, support group regulars kept off 44 percent more weight than those who rarely showed up. Stay active (a walking buddy can make a huge difference). In another study, successful losers who didn’t move it regained 33 percent of lost abdominal fat – the nasty kind that boosts diabetes risk. Nobody needs that kind of a muffin top!

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV (check local listings). To submit questions, go to www.Real-Age.com.

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