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10 Diet Changes You MUST Make to Lose Weight

Written by Nancy Rahnama, MD, MS.

Many people believe losing weight is all about crash diets and hours of painful exercise. Here on Project LIFE, however, we're going to show you sensible changes you need to make in order to lose those few stubborn pounds that won't seem to come off. Read (and heed) the following tips:

1.Breakfast:  Many people skip breakfast, believing that this may help their in their diet goals. This may be easier for some people, as many do not feel hungry when waking up in the morning. This may be due to the fact that most people eat too much for dinner and are still full when it is time for breakfast. The problem with this is two-fold; eating a large dinner is over indulgence and results in a significant caloric intake prior to the time of rest, which requires the most minimal amount of caloric support. Secondly, when avoiding breakfast, people subject themselves to feeling famished when it is time for lunch and overindulge once again.

Thus, it is important to keep dinner simple and make sure that you make time for a simple breakfast in order to start the metabolism early in the morning and decrease the need for over-indulgence at night time.

2.Beverage:  What do you drink with your food? Caloric intake by most people is through unnecessary beverages, which provide zero nutrition and only stimulate more eating leading to weight gain. Avoid drinking any drink that has calories, especially sodas and juices. Studies have shown that even diet sodas result in a greater amount of food intake when compared to those who have water with their meals.1 Sparkling or flat water is the best choice for drink when necessary.

3.Alcohol:  Life is short. I will not recommend abandoning alcohol all together. However, it is important to drink in moderation and to choose your drinks wisely. Fruity drinks, such as margaritas and martinis have significant amounts of alcohol in them and will only encourage further drinking. In addition, alcohol has been shown to stimulate the appetite, resulting in unnecessary snacking and poor choices in food intake. If you must have a drink, avoid mixers, or have a glass of wine or champagne, which have less alcohol. This will also decrease caloric intake and lessen the side effect of bingeing with drinking.

4.Protein:  The importance of protein has been stressed in previous articles. It is through protein that we fight the decline in metabolism that comes with age and a sedentary lifestyle. Protein is necessary to maintain a strong metabolism and ensure continued and long-lasting weight loss. Thus, it is important to have a good portion of protein in each meal throughout the day. Not only will this help assist in the maintenance of muscle, but it will also result in early satiety as well as decreased caloric intake and carbohydrate intake.

5.Fiber:  Supplementing protein with fiber further assists in satiety and provides nutrients that are necessary for a healthy well-being. Fiber also assists with regularity in bowel movements and promotes gastrointestinal health.

6.Water:  Many may feel hungry, but may simply be thirsty. Thus, it is best to try to curb the appetite with a glass of water prior to snacking. You may be surprised to notice that your search for food declines by having a simple glass of water. It is important to remain hydrated with water throughout the day, this will not only allow you to feel satisfied, but also improves mood and physical health. Many people follow the general guidelines of having "8 glasses of water a day." However, this may be too much for some people and not enough for others. It is important have water always available and to sip throughout the day in order to avoid thirst. The feeling of thirst is an indication of long-standing dehydration. In addition, any alcoholic or caffeinated beverage should be supplemented by a glass of water, as alcohol and caffeine are both dehydrating.

7.Carbohydrates:  I have said it before, and I will probably say it again. By having a diet that is rich in fiber and protein you will decrease the urge to grab an extra piece of bread or add rice to your meal. Carbohydrates, such as bread, rice and pasta only provide calories and are converted to fat readily by the body. Some feel that by having whole-wheat bread or brown rice, they may get away with incorporating these products in their diet. However, the truth is that the only difference between brown and white has to do with the processing and that brown has more fiber than white. Otherwise, they both contribute unnecessary calories.

8.Focus on your food:  When you eat, eat. Taste your food. Many people such as myself are on the go and eat while they drive, while they work, or in front of the TV. This may result in quick and excessive eating that becomes a chore, as opposed to a time in the day where you may treat your body with the nutrients and food it needs. By making time to eat, tasting every bite and giving the meal your full attention, you are more likely to feel satisfied earlier. Therefore, you'll eat less. Studies have shown that people eat faster when they eat a meal while watching an exciting, fast-pace, sporting event.2 Turn the TV off and pay attention to your meal. Chew slowly and taste every bite.

9.Use food only as a source of fuel:  Snack occasionally, but eat only when hungry. When reaching for a snack, ask yourself why. If you truly are hungry, reach for the snack that is high in fiber and/or protein. This will help you stay fuller and help you avoid over snacking. Although many people may snack on trail mix, believing it is a healthy choice, it is mostly fat and carbohydrates. Other people may reach for snacks that are high in carbohydrates, which may suggest sleep deprivation.

10.Indulge occasionally:   Again, life is short; it is okay to have dessert. However, keep it to a minimum. Have some birthday cake if you are eyeing it. Taste it and appreciate it, as this will decrease the need to have an entire piece (and maybe even a second slice).

Instead of making your diet a chore, see it as a lifestyle. A better way of living. A better way of treating your body. This will make you feel less restricted and less likely to binge.


1Rhee J. J, Mattei J, Campos H. Association between commercial and traditional sugar-sweetened beverages and measures of adiposity in Costa Rica. Public Health Nutrition.2012 Apr 12:1-8.
2Golan M, Fainaru M, Weizman A. Role of behaviour modification in the treatment of childhood obesity with the parents as the exclusive agents of change. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 1998 Dec;22(12):1217-24.

Nancy Rahnama, MD, MS
Nancy Rahnama, MD, MS

Nancy Rahnama MD, MS is a practicing Internist and Bariatrician in Los Angeles, where she has completed all of her training. She received a Bachelors in Science and Masters in Science in Physiology at University of California, Los Angeles and then went on to complete Medical School at the Keck School of Medicine at the Univ.. Read more

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