Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories

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The Step Diet: What It Is

If you are looking for a way to lose weight, keep it off forever and be healthier, then the Step Diet is for you. There's no counting of carbs, fat grams, or calories. This is not really a diet, but rather a compilation of simple ways to permanently change your eating and exercise patterns without a strict diet plan.

The entire Step Diet premise is simple: Walk 10,000 steps a day and trim your portions by a quarter and you will lose weight, simple as that. Move more, eat a little less.

The Step Diet, by James O. Hill, John C. Peters, Bonnie T. Jortberg, and Pamela Peeke, is a lifelong program for both weight loss and weight maintenance. The easy-to-do plan helps dieters slowly increase their daily activity with the use of a pedometer that comes with the book. Simple rules, tips, and diet guidelines are provided with the plan to teach dieters how to trim calories and portion sizes and increase the number of steps they take. Making these lifestyle changes is the secret sauce to successful and permanent weight control.

James Hill, PhD, a well-respected obesity researcher, and co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) and America on the Move, understands the importance of physical activity.

"You don't need to run marathons to control your weight, just strap on a pedometer and lace up a pair of sneakers and put one foot in front of the other," says Hill. "We need to get people to be more active and by using the pedometer and making small dietary changes, we really can make a dent in the obesity of our nation."

If you're ready to make small adjustments in the way you eat, and if you want to start walking your way to weight loss, the Step Diet is the plan you've been looking for. 

The Step Diet: What You Can Eat

The Step Diet lets you eat whatever you like, as long as you cut back your usual portion size by about 25%. Then balance your daily intake with plenty of steps, starting at 2,000 and working your way up to 10,000 per day.

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Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats are strongly encouraged and there are no forbidden foods. If you want to splurge on a piece of cheesecake, simply compensate with the appropriate number of steps.

Detailed charts for men and women calculate the number of steps needed to balance out the extra calories from your favorite foods. If you prefer other forms of exercise besides walking, there are charts showing the equivalent number of steps. For example, for women 150 steps can be traded for one minute of cycling.

Bottom line with the Step Diet, cut back on your serving sizes and increase the number of steps you take throughout the day to increase energy expenditure and you will lose or maintain body weight.

The Step Diet: How It Works

Diets don't work because most are temporary solutions or quick fixes. The Step Diet is a diet plan that shows you how to make small changes in eating and exercise habits that really do add up. Dieters are encouraged to take a hard look at their habits during the first week of the program. Then behavior tips throughout the book are designed to help you become more aware of eating mindfully and gaining control over problems.

The answer to long-term weight control is understanding energy balance. Calories eaten minus calories burned is the basic mathematical formula for energy balance and weight control. The Step Diet, based on scientific studies and research from the NWCR, shows dieters simple ways to trim calories and how to burn more calories to achieve weight loss through a negative energy balance.

On this plan you won't need to count calories or eat particular foods. The goal is to eat a healthy diet that satisfies hunger and results in slow and steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Emphasis throughout the book is on making small, permanent, easy changes in your diet and lifestyle that will promote a healthier energy balance.

To get started, use the pedometer to assess the usual number of steps you take daily. Then add 500 steps or walk a minimum of 2,000 steps a day (a 15-minute walk). Each week, add 500 steps until you reach the goal of 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles or 75 minutes) per day.

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Don't have 75 minutes? You don't have to do the steps all at once. By using a pedometer, you can accrue steps throughout the day and let it serve as a motivator to find ways to add more steps, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car in the corner of the lot.

You can continue the Step Diet indefinitely, but the authors suggest just maintaining your initial weight lost on the plan before resuming the program again to lose additional weight. Why? Believe it or not, "losing weight is the easy part," says Hill, "the tough part is keeping the lost weight off forever." He explains that most weight loss occurs in the first 12 weeks, so it is a good time to get comfortable with your new weight and learn how to maintain it before going back on the program.

The Step Diet: What the Experts Say

What sets the Step Diet apart from other diet books is the emphasis on physical activity and the common sense approach of taking small steps to change eating behaviors. What could be easier than walking more and cutting 100 calories every day?

Susan Finn, former president of the American Dietetic Association and chairwoman of the American Council on Fitness and Nutrition, loves the Step Diet. "It is one of the easiest strategies for weight loss -- all you need is a pair of sneakers, a pedometer and some simple guidance on proper portions and healthy eating behaviors to be successful," she says.

Finn adds that "dieters feel empowered, because counting steps is something measurable that makes physical activity fun," a real bonus for anyone struggling to lose weight.

"The Step Diet cuts through all the clutter and scary science terms and makes losing weight or maintaining weight very doable for most everyone," Finn tells WebMD. The diet is very practical with good advice on how to trim calories. There are no gimmicks or restricted foods, and it allows all your favorites. The key? You just might need to add some extra steps to walk off the calories.

If more people simply cut back on portions and became more physically active, Finn thinks we wouldn't have an obesity problem in the United States.

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The Step Diet: Food for Thought

You can walk your way to weight loss with this sensible program. The Step Diet helps break the cycle of losing weight only to regain it a few months later by counting steps and trimming portions -- it is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

The single best tool for keeping weight off is exercise. Hill's work with the NWCR has provided keen insight into the different needs for successful weight loss and weight maintenance.

"Successful maintainers need more physical activity than dieters and the more they walk, the more they can eat" says Hill.

The Step Diet book is packed with useful advice and tidbits of information to help curtail bad weight-gaining habits and find ways to walk more. The biggest step you can take is to go buy this book and start pounding the pavement every day. This could very well be your last diet.

WebMD Expert Review Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 04, 2016

Sources

SOURCES: James O. Hill, PhD, co-founder, National Weight Control Registry; director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; co-author, The Step Diet. Susan Finn, PhD, RD, chairwoman, American Council for Fitness and Nutrition.

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