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
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
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.