You’ve probably seen TV shows where 300- to 400-pound contestants lose 100 pounds or more over a three-month span and wondered, “Can I do that?” Those contestants have personal trainers and professional chefs, and they're in the gym for several hours per day. Most people don’t have that luxury. However, it is possible for you to get similar results. It just may take longer and require more effort on your part. The best diet for extreme weight loss is the diet you can follow for a lifetime, but check with your health care provider before starting.
Weight loss is simply a math equation: calories consumed minus calories burned equals weight gain or weight loss. If you eat 500 calories fewer than you burn every day, you will lose about a pound a week. To give you an idea of calorie content: a slice of bread contains about 80; an ounce of potato chips -- about 22 chips -- contains 150 calories; a small chocolate chip cookie contains about 60; and 32 ounces of regular soda contains 400 calories. Check food labels to determine how many calories you consume daily, then eliminate some. A registered dietitian can help determine your individual calorie needs and build you a healthy meal plan.
The National Weight Control Registry, a registry of people who have successfully lost weight and maintained it, reports that 55 percent of participants lost weight with the help of some type of diet program. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, low-calorie, low-fat diets are the most studied and most recommended way to lose weight. Low-carb diets and programs that provide prepackaged meals can also be effective in helping you lose weight. However, avoid diets that restrict carbohydrates to less than 35 percent of your calories for more than six months or diets that completely eliminate food groups. These diets may deplete you of important nutrients.
Ninety-four percent of people in the National Weight Control Registry included exercise in their weight-loss program, with 90 percent exercising an average of one hour every day. Walking was the most common type of activity. Exercise is key to successfully losing weight and keeping it off; it helps you burn more calories than you consume. Walking burns approximately 200 calories every 30 minutes. The 2008 Physical Activities for Americans Guidelines recommend that you get two hours and 30 minutes of exercise weekly. Talk to your health care provider about which exercise program best fits your needs.
Mealtimes and Snacks
It’s harder to maintain self-control if you’re starving. Seventy-eight percent of participants in the National Weight Control Registry reported eating breakfast. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that research is limited and inconsistent with regard to regular mealtimes and successful weight loss; however, it does recommend four to five meals or snacks daily, eating mostly during the day and avoiding eating too much in the evening.
You can lose weight on your own, but sometimes it’s helpful to include professionals in your diet plan. A registered dietitian can determine your calorie needs and make recommendations about meal and snack foods. Your health care provider can monitor your weight, lipid levels, blood pressure and other measures to determine your health progress. A personal trainer can teach you proper ways to exercise to avoid injuries, and a psychologist can help you deal with any mental or emotional challenges. Don’t forget the importance of family and friends as your support team and lifetime cheerleaders.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- National Weight Control Registry: NWCR Facts
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Position of the American Dietetic Association -- Weight Management
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary