With spring a few weeks away, now is a perfect time to start planning to get in shape for summer.
Weight loss is healthiest when it happens over time. Ken Sarber, a health educator at Kansas University and former personal trainer, estimates weight loss should be limited to 2 pounds per week.
“Restrictive diets are not sustainable,” Sarber said.
Moderation is best for long-term weight loss. It’s also a rule to keep in mind when visiting restaurants.
“Treat yourself,” said Ben Sathoff, assistant director of fitness at Kansas University’s Recreation Services. “But make sure restaurants stay a treat by limiting yourself to dining out once every one or two weeks. Home cooking is better.”
Many restaurants, in Sathoff’s opinion, serve overly large portions. He recommends requesting a to-go box at the start of the meal and immediately dividing your plate in half. Keep the uneaten portion for your next meal.
He also suggests drinking a glass or two of water before your food arrives, which helps your meal expand faster as you’re eating. You’ll feel full sooner.
“Don’t think that you can’t go to a restaurant,” Sarber said. There are tools, websites to help you plan ahead and know what you can eat. “It’s not about being perfect. It’s about making the better choice.”
“Some people can’t avoid carbs, some can’t avoid chocolate,” he added.
Be aware of the content of side dishes, suggested Casey Young, a personal trainer for KU recreation services. Order lean meats, like turkey or salmon. Also, avoid soda — a single soda might contain several hundred calories, which may take an hour or two of walking to burn.
Set realistic goals. Set an ideal number of calories or carbohydrates that you can consume each day and don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking too long-term.
A sustainable diet is built around what you know you’ll crave. Shape your diet and exercise around your lifestyle. Don’t try to force yourself into a lifestyle that you cannot sustain.
“Variety is best,” Sathoff said. Don’t limit yourself to certain foods. Your body needs different types of vitamins and nutrients. Even candy should be limited, not off-limits.
“Even if you eat 3,000 calories’ worth of vegetables and you don’t burn it off, you’ll gain weight,” Sarber said.
Ultimately, a diet is a healthier lifestyle that must be livable.
“Ideal weight is not a number. It’s when you look in the mirror and you’re happy,” Sathoff said. “You should have fun. You shouldn’t regret having to do it.”
“As long as you’re eating healthy 80 to 90 percent of the time, you shouldn’t worry about eating out,” he said. “I’m not going to restrict myself.”
When clients visit Sarber’s office and ask to know their ideal weights, “I say, ‘you tell me.’” If they are truly comfortable with the way their body looks and moves, that is a measure of a healthy weight.
“Weight is nice, but people obsess about it. And muscle weighs more than fat,” he said.
Even the Body Mass Index may not be a true reflection of a person’s fitness. There are long-term implications to every diet. Consider the effect on your heart or kidneys, for example. Weight is only one aspect of health.
Restaurants should be a treat, which are a healthy part of any weight loss plan.
Maybe instead of lunch or dinner, invite friends for a hike by Clinton Lake, or a soccer game in the park. Social events don’t have to be limited to meals, especially as days grow warmer. After all, it’s not just about fitting in a bikini.