Planning to lose it

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm saying it out loud. This is the year that I will lose those pesky 10 pounds (OK, so it's now 15) that I have been ranting and raving about ever since middle-age took control of my middle. When you see me five months from now, I will look like I did when I left Missouri in 1970 (but with a few more wrinkles and without the luxurious shag haircut).

Already, I have put into effect one of the best tips for losing weight: Making a public statement that holds you accountable. Here are three more of my top tips for losing weight in a healthy manner.

* Portion control. I have dark and dangerous feelings about those who smugly practice this strategy. I, like most Americans, am untalented at portion control.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American men have added an average of 168 calories a day to their diet over 30 years. Women have been naughtier, adding an average of 335 calories a day.

Why is this? Perhaps they were raised by the same mother as I, one who guilted them about starving children in faraway places. Also, we eat out way more than we used to, and fast-food joints can infuse us with up to 2,000 calories per supersized meal -- more than most of us should be consuming in an entire day.

A couple of tips on how to succeed at portion control. Cut everything you have on your plate in half and -- here is the trick -- eat only half of it. The other thing is to use smaller plates and bowls. This has been scientifically validated: With smaller the plate or bowl, your mind perceives you are fuller faster.

* Don't starve or deprive yourself. This, of course, is my favorite tip. But it is true. If your body feels starved, because you have deprived yourself of its adequate calories, or even its treats, it will retaliate. The next time you are near a chocolate fountain you are more likely to be compelled to stick your head into it. It is only human.

"I don't think there are any sins about weight loss," says Dr. John La Puma, a nationally known medical nutritionist. "I almost always advise my patients, starting out, that on the seventh day they can eat anything they want. After that, they should choose four days out of each year -- I call them Fiesta Days -- where anything goes. Weight loss should be fun: a journey to a better place that is about reward, but not about food reward."

* Diets don't work, counting calories does. We have finally gotten the message that good dieting is about "calories-in/calories-out," which isn't always an easy task.

CalorieKing.com is a Web site that can help. You enter information about your age, weight, activity level, etc., and it calculates the number of calories you need to consume in order to lose weight. Using its helpful calorie calculation tool, you figure out how many calories you consumed in any one day, deducting the calories expended in exercise.

For example, Calorie King told me that I need to consume no more than 1,670 calories a day in order to lose weight. Today, tallying my calories consumed and exercise that expended calories, I entered my dinner hour with the full calorie allotment to spend. Since I was going out to a dinner with a friend at a Mexican restaurant, this was useful information. I was able to eat my carnitas and drink a margarita or two with impunity. You can sign up for a free sevem-day trial: www.calorieking.com.

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at mseabaugh@semissourian.com For more on the topics covered in Healthspan, visit his Web site: www.HealthspanWeb.com.

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