Maintaining a healthy weight can be one of the more challenging aspects of health, especially for individuals with chronic obesity. In Kansas alone, more than 32 percent of adults are obese. Even with such high percentage of the population living with this disease, there are many steps that individuals can take to get on a path to better health and weight loss. Dr. Lisa Goularte, board-certified obesity medicine specialist at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, and Danielle Rudder, APRN at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, are sharing ways in which you can maintain a healthy weight.
“The first step in our program is making sure patients know their motivation,” said Rudder. “Are they preparing for their wedding? Do they want to set an example for their children? Do they want to play a round of golf and be able to walk the entire course? Looking at motivating factors like these is important. We want our patients to be motivated for a lifetime, not just to achieve a short-term goal, as we are aiming to improve the overall health of the body.”
Both Goularte and Rudder recommend following the SMART guidelines when setting weight loss goals.
SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timeout
Specific: Determine a specific accomplishment or milestone. Avoid goals that are too broad.
Example: I want to get out of the class of obesity and into the overweight category.
Measureable: Break your goal down into measurable elements in order to track progress.
Example: I can get out the obesity category by tracking my caloric intake and eating under a specified number of calories per day.
Attainable: Investigate if your goal is acceptable to you.
Example: Tracking calories will be hard work, but I can do it by using a calorie tracking app on my phone as well as preparing all my meals for the week in advance so I won’t be tempted to make a poor food choice.
Relevant: Set a goal that matters to you and is something you truly want to achieve.
Example: I want to get out of the obesity category in order to reduce my risk of diabetes and allow me to be more active with my children.
Timeout: Set a deadline or timeline for your goal to help stay on track.
Example: I want to get out of the obesity category by the end of the year.
“These guidelines can be helpful for individuals as well as us on the medical end of things,” said Goularte. “The medical community is here to help you in your journey.”
Setting goals in terms of pounds lost is not recommended. “Always looking for a certain number on the scale isn’t the best way to achieve your goals,” said Rudder. “What we are really hoping to do is reduce patient’s risk of comorbid diseases. Lowering blood pressure, reducing joint pains and moving out of the obesity range are just a few of the things we are striving for. Weight loss is required to make those things happen, but we don’t like to put a number with it. Patients can also become very overwhelmed when a high weight loss number is given to them. Our goal is to set everyone up for success. Obesity and its disease process are complex and every individual with this disease is different, so weight loss amounts will vary from patient to patient. Setting realistic expectations ensures that patients will continue with their appointments and working towards their goals.”
Aside from the number on the scale, many patients achieve non-measureable goals. “Patients will tell us how they are now able to sit on the floor and play with their children and grandchildren or how they are able to get around the grocery store without using the scooter cart,” said Goularte. “Things like parking in a parking lot and walking to a building without shortness of breath or walking up flights of stairs without stopping are huge steps in the right direction. These milestones mean more than any number.”
“When a patient comes in and I can see changes that aren’t related to their measurements or their weight but their blood pressure has dropped or they have moved out of the obesity category into the overweight category, I am so excited for them,” said Rudder. “There might not have been a huge change on the scale, but their bodies are changing for the better and thanking them for their hard work.”
Mindful snacking is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight. “Hummus with vegetables is one of my personal favorites,” said Rudder. “Chocolate and mint chocolate hummus are also great to eat with fruit if you need something on the sweeter side. These options give you some protein, aren’t high in carbs and won’t leave you feeling guilty about chocolate.”
Having ready-to-go snack containers is also something Rudder recommends. “Having snacks portioned out in the fridge and pantry in reusable containers is very helpful,” said Rudder. “If you are headed out the door in a rush or just need an easy snack, having these things readily available will save you a lot of time and thought. Setting up a system like this is a great way to stay on track.”
Goularte encourages each patient to keep an open mind and take things a day at a time. “One of the things I tell every new patient is that weight loss is like a train trip,” said Goularte. “It’s not like getting in the car and driving 75 miles per hour or hopping on a plane and flying 500 miles. This is a slow, bumpy and sometimes monotonous road trip. We all get off the train occasionally. We have holiday meals or bad days where we eat all the chocolate cake in the break room and that’s okay. The idea is that you catch the next train so you can get back on track. We don’t want you to get permanently derailed just because you had a bad meal, day or week.”
Hitting a Plateau
Sometimes boredom or lack of inspiration can derail patients from their weight loss plans. “If you are feeling this way and tired of eating the same things over and over again, change it up,” said Rudder. “Pinterest is a great place to find healthy and delicious new recipes and YouTube has tons of exercise videos available for all different levels. Watching videos like these can even be a great way to get your family involved in more physical activity.”
If patients feel like they have hit a plateau in their weight loss, Rudder encourages them to watch the little bites. “Having a bite of your partner’s cheesecake after dinner or testing the spaghetti sauce while cooking are perfect examples of how the little things that can add up,” said Rudder. “Even if it isn’t a real meal or snack, it should still be included in the list of things eaten that day. Oftentimes, patients feel like they’ve hit this plateau but they can’t figure out why and it can usually be traced back to those sporadic little bites. Those little calories still count.”
Goularte wants patients to know this is a lifelong process. “I always address that obesity is a chronic, long-term disease,” said Goularte. “You never graduate. A lot of people begin weight loss programs, do them for six months and then they are done. They’ve lost some weight and feel like they have been successful so they stop and then the weight comes back on. Our program is catered to each individual patient so that they can achieve their goals in a realistic time frame, work at their desired pace and keep the weight off. Don’t make extreme changes that you aren’t going to be able to continue forever. It’s all about small steps.”
For more information about medical weight loss services at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, please call our clinic at 785-232-0444.