Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Consistency Is Key In Trying To Lose Weight

UW Health Family Medicine physician Dr. Jacqueline GerhartMadison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that appears Tuesdays on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.


Dear Dr. Gerhart: I just got into exercising (walking) and lowering the salt in my diet. I haven't lost any weight. How else can I track my progress?


Dear Reader: Congrats! I can tell you right now that any improvement you make in your diet and exercise will help you mentally and physically. But consistency is key.


Everyone always says, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle." However, many of us get discouraged when we don't see results on the scale. So you need a way to track your progress.


If you aren't seeing results on the scale, then perhaps your goal should be a certain number of steps taken each day or a certain number of calories eaten. Once you pick a goal (which your physician can help with), then you have to figure out the best way to stay on track.


There are three main suggestions I tell patients:

  1. Join a group, such as a fitness or weight management group, and let them do the tracking
  2. Find a fun way to track it on your own with technology devices or phone applications
  3. Keep it simple. Choose one: pedometer or pencil and paper

First, the groups. You have likely heard of Weight Watchers and Curves. Most gyms also have groups for goals such as strength, flexibility and nutrition. But if you aren't interested in shelling out money, consider joining a group of friends or co-workers for accountability.


For example, there may be a group challenge at your work, such as a "Biggest Losers" competition. Or try joining a class. Your insurance company may help pay for "wellness" classes or activities at local clinics or hospitals.


Many hospitals are trying to start yoga classes and healthy cooking classes that you can try. Your senior center may have a track that lets you count the number of laps you walk with friends. Often, local colleges and universities let you exercise in their gyms at reduced rates.


Next, tech devices. Smartphone apps are great for taking the trouble out of tracking progress. As an added bonus, you can often upload and share your progress with others who can cheer you on via the Internet.


Some apps I've seen my patients use are: RunKeeper, Fooducate, LoseIt!, Endomondo, MyNetDiary and Restaurant Nutrition.


If you are really into technology, consider the Nike+ FuelBand. You wear it on your wrist, and it calculates your calories burned and steps taken that day. It also allows you to set a goal of "fuel points." You determine your goal for the day, and then see how close you are to achieving that goal. You can upload the data to a computer or use the Nike+ app to save it on your phone.


And finally, the simple solutions: pedometers and paper/pencil. Pedometers are simple calculators that clip to your belt and count your steps. You can often get them for free from health care organizations or you can buy them for about $10. You can then write down your daily steps.


Even more simple: Take your pet - or spouse, partner, roommate, kid - for a walk, and set a goal number of blocks. Write it down when you get home. Choose a different friend for each day of the week. You will stay fit, be held accountable and foster your relationships - all leading to improved health.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.

Date Published: 10/09/2012

News tag(s):  jacqueline l gerhart

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