Navigating Weight Loss in the New Year

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Dr. Venugopal is an assistant professor of Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Venugopal is accepting new patients at the Vanderbilt Weight Loss Centers in Shelbyville, Murfreesboro and Nashville, Tennessee.

By Roshni Venugopal, MD

As we embark on a new year, many people are eager to pursue a healthier lifestyle, with improved fitness and weight loss objectives at the top of our list of New Year’s resolutions. How do we effectively and sustainably achieve healthy weight loss without feeling deprived, hungry and overwhelmed?

We know that changes in diet alone play a more significant role toward weight loss than physical activity alone. Therefore, the first step toward healthy, sustainable weight loss is changing our diet for the better. Ultimately, it is important to combine healthy dietary choices with consistent physical movement to achieve sustained weight loss.

What is a healthy diet? A healthy diet prioritizes food that is minimally processed and includes fruits and vegetables daily. Grains should be whole whenever possible, and lean proteins are always a smart choice. When plating your food, divide your plate into fourths. Half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, and the other half of the plate should be further divided into a quarter of lean protein and a quarter of whole grains. Minimize
fat where you can by cutting back on excess added oil, cream and cheese.

Portion control is also important, and many of us do not actually know what a serving size looks like. Look up serving sizes, and you may be surprised. Beware of sneaky sources of high calories that lack nutritional value. A dangerous source is fructose, found in sugar-sweetened beverages, which can lead to the development of a fatty liver. Unfortunately, even diet sweetened beverages are harmful to your metabolism and health.

Interestingly, the setting of your meal can be as important as what you eat. Try not to eat in front of a television or smartphone, in the car, or walking where you cannot be aware of your meal. Distracted eating means you are less likely to appreciate your food; when you eat mindfully, your experience will be more joyous and fulfilling.

What can influence weight gain beyond diet? A sedentary lifestyle where you hardly move during the day will increase fat deposition in the body. Meaningful daily movement, like walking, swimming or taking a physical class that you enjoy, can help keep you on track with your weight loss goals. Often overlooked is the importance of healthy sleep. Poor sleep or inadequate sleep disrupts hormones that regulate appetite, leading to increased
cravings and unwanted weight gain. In addition, mental and emotional factors play a big role. Chronic stress triggers cortisol release, a hormone associated with increased abdominal fat deposition. When you manage your stress with activities like meditation, yoga or a favorite hobby, or self-care, you will see a positive impact on your weight.

Realistic short-term goals and achievable daily habits will add up to long-term goals. Celebrate milestones along the way to stay motivated. If you have tried to make changes to your diet and lifestyle, and you have not seen positive changes, it is important to seek help.

A nutritionist can help tailor an eating regimen toward your needs, which can be influenced by age, gender, underlying health conditions, and genetics. A physician is an important resource as well.

In Tennessee, we have a greater than 35% rate of obesity, and a close to 10% rate of severe obesity. This means obesity certainly affects someone you know, if not yourself. If left unchecked, obesity will lead to decreased life expectancy, increased cancer risk, development or worsening of Type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular
diseases, including stroke, heart attack and dementia. The life made shorter by obesity also becomes a life of suffering by way of obesity, with difficulty moving, breathing, resting, and sleeping. When patients have advanced metabolic dysfunction resulting in severe obesity, sometimes medical or surgical intervention is warranted to prevent the negative health consequences of obesity, to help patients get off of multiple medications, and to reverse or remit their Type 2 diabetes.

If you have been struggling to lose weight while making changes in the right direction, it might be time for you to discuss your health journey with a local physician. The providers at Vanderbilt Weight Loss are rooting for your success, and we have experience assisting thousands of patients with their weight loss goals.

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