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Expert Q&A: Getting Started With a Weight Loss Plan

An interview with James O. Hill, PhD.

How can I stay motivated to lose or maintain my weight?

People have no problem staying motivated in the short-term. A person will think, “Gosh, I’m going to a wedding in six weeks – I have to lose some weight.” And as you start to lose the weight, it can be pretty easy. You get a lot of positive feedback, because everyone’s telling you how good you look.

But as time goes on, you get diminishing returns. You stop getting compliments because people are used to your new appearance. Then you have to rely on internal motivation, which is a lot harder. So that’s why it’s so important to start weight loss with a real commitment to making changes forever. It’s not easy. But we’ve found that the longer you keep weight off, the better your odds. People report that after they keep the weight off for three years, their likelihood of ongoing success is pretty high.

What kind of foods should be on my weight loss diet?

We’ve found that although all sorts of diets help people lose weight, the people who keep it off tend to eat a high fiber, moderately low-fat diet.

But most importantly, you should eat foods that you’re going to be able to eat your whole life. You have to be realistic. If you love ice cream and go on a diet that makes you give it up, that diet is probably not going to work for you.

Are there any supplements that can help me lose weight?

My sense is that most of them are probably neutral: they won’t help and they won’t hurt. However, there’s very little evidence about these supplements and it’s possible that some could even be harmful. For now, my advice is to steer clear of them. I think you’d just lose your money and not get any benefit.

Obviously, if you see someone selling a supplement promising easy, rapid weight loss, run the other way. Believe me, if it were true, everybody would be thin.

Should I take prescription diet pills?

There are some prescription diet pills that can help some people. But they’re not for everybody and they’re not magic bullets. The weight won’t melt off once you start taking them. In fact, these medications don’t do much on their own – you still have to do the diet and exercise part.

If you’re interested, you obviously can’t take them on your own. Your physician can help you decide if they make sense for you.

Has your research changed any of your own dietary and exercise habits?

I’ve always tried to make physical activity a priority, so my research just reinforced this. If anything, it did make me realize how important it is to eat breakfast every day.

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Reviewed on December 30, 2009

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