Tis the season to be jolly and plump in spite of ourselves as we enjoy our annual ritual of hibernation. Lots of feasting and holiday cheer often leads to a decision to start the new year on a different track.
So what I am about to say may seem a little surprising coming from the President and CEO of the Natural Products Association, the nation’s largest trade association for the dietary supplement industry. But it needs to be said loud and clear, especially since losing weight is the #1 New Year’s Resolution and has been for as long as I can remember.
There is no miracle pill, powder, shake, smoothie, herb, extract, cream, or clear way to lose weight without proper diet, exercise, and rest. Period. Drug companies are no closer today to making a capsule for weight loss, and we shouldn’t expect one from the dietary supplement industry any time soon.
But thankfully, Virginia, there is a way, because before my career in the dietary supplement industry, I played football for the University of North Carolina and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I have served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy for several years.
So what is the answer to a healthy approach to long-term weight loss? It’s actually pretty simple: eating healthy foods, increasing exercise, and consulting your health care provider to discuss complementing your diet with nutritional supplements for a healthy lifestyle.
Food is not the enemy, and overdoing an approach that stresses undereating will actually backfire. When we restrict calories, the body responds by slashing its energy expenditure and metabolism to match the fewer calories coming in. This results in sluggishness, and keeps us hibernating instead of losing weight. So food is essential, and weight loss only occurs when caloric burn is greater than caloric intake.
Here are the proven ways to help you lose weight and get fit.
First, an ounce of planning is worth a pound of weight loss, so plan ahead. Consult your physician or healthcare provider concerning how much weight you should lose. For example, eating only foods high in protein may fill you up, but it may tax your kidneys. Research healthy foods.
Second, consider a small fast to kick start healthy eating and weight loss. This may seem at odds with the notion that food is not the enemy, but short-term fasts can reap early dividends. In addition to weight loss, fasting sharpens our taste buds which have been desensitized by sugar in unhealthy foods. After a quick hiatus, you’ll be surprised by how good healthy foods taste. So find out if fasting is OK for you and consider supplementation with vitamins and cofactors if this is part of your plan.
Third, remember the bottom line that we have to eat to burn calories for sustained weight loss. It may sound backwards, but your body needs energy to burn fat. But that doesn’t mean overeating, so don’t hang out in the kitchen. Instead, plan activities with friends and family to get out of the house.
Fourth, get moving and keep moving. This is the one area which requires the most from a lot of us. We have to burn calories in order to keep off the pounds, and fortunately, there are more options available today than ever before, including fitness programs, gyms, jogging, cycling, or just taking a few more or longer walks each day. And the great part about fitness is that nearly everyone you’ll encounter began exactly where you are at some point in their lives, which means you have a support system waiting for you.
The final tip is to make a pact with yourself instead of just a resolution. Losing weight and eating healthy is a wonderful and fulfilling lifestyle change and a promise to yourself. You won’t just look better, you’ll feel better, think better, sleep better, and be better. Playing football taught me that 100 percent of football is half-mental, and the same can be said for weight loss. If you derail from your plan, get back on track as soon as you can. And if you start on January 1st or June 1st, it is never too late to start.
While there is no magic pill, supplementing your diet with nutritional supplements during weight loss and fitness can benefit your healthy lifestyle. Dietary supplements are safe and regulated by the federal government, despite many claims and misreporting to the contrary. I know this because I also led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs for several years.
So enjoy this hibernation, but be like St. Nick next year without the jellybelly . . . merry, lively and quick!
Dr. Fabricant is the former head of the Dietary Supplement Division at the Food and Drug Administration and currently serves as President and CEO of the Natural Products Association in Washington, D.C.