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Gaining Ground on Weight Gain

When weight gain sneaks up, look at it as an opportunity to take control.

The Art of Cutting Down continued...

"You can eat your regular meals, and they can even be hearty meals, but you should cut out or at least cut down on desserts, sweets, and between-meal treats," says Kraus. "And watch the coffee break; it can be a diet-killer."

Just can't give up desserts?  Eat everything you were eating before, says Aronowitz. Just don't eat all of it.

"Leave over a few bites of everything on your plate -- or ditch a little before digging in if you feel you want to eat the whole thing," she says.

Another strategy: Substitute a low-calorie liquid meal or nutrition bar for one regular meal per day.

"Again, the idea is to take in less calories than you were taking in when you gained the extra pounds, and it really doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you do it," says Aronowitz.

In fact, you don't need to cut out many calories to lose even as much as 10 pounds.

"To lose one pound of weight, you have to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories – which over seven days is 500 calories per day," says Kraus.

While that may seem like a lot, she offers this example:

  • Substitute water or unsweetened iced tea for just one can of soda and save about 200 calories.
  • Use non-fat milk instead of half-and-half and save as much as 100 calories.
  • Eat one less cheese cube and save another 100 calories.
  • Cut out just four small cookies and save 160 calories.

"That's already over 500 calories and you'd hardly notice," says Kraus.

At the same time, Aronowitz says, don't just assume your "cut down" is working.

"Get on the scale, and if your weight is not moving within a couple of weeks -- and especially if it seems you have gained weight -- you'll have to tweak your strategy," says Aronowitz.

Shake It Up With Exercise

If cutting down or even a full-fledged diet doesn't seem to be doing the trick, it's likely you'll need to increase exercise time before you see results. 

"To lose weight effectively, you really should combine calorie cutting with exercise. Either one alone is not as effective as the two together," says Yanagisawa.

If you're already at a high level of exercise, he says, small cutbacks in your food intake and slight increases in physical activity should do the job. If you're a couch potato, though, you'll need to start really moving before you see the pounds melt away.

And can you lose those extra 10 pounds by exercise alone? Experts tell WebMD it's not likely.

Says Yanagisawa: "If you were capable of doing the amount of exercise it would take to burn off 10 pounds without dieting, then you probably would never have gained the 10 pounds to begin with!"

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Reviewed on March 13, 2007

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