Last Wednesday, millions of us woke up for Day Two of that great American tradition: the annual New Year's resolution to lose weight. As we poured our fat-free milk into some bland, sugarless cereal we were greeted by a headline that blared an amazing discovery: Fat is GOOD. It didn't actually say that, but the New York Times article was typical: "Study Suggests Lower Mortality Risk for People Deemed to Be Overweight." Others read: "Study: A Few Extra Pounds May Cut Risk of Early Death," and "New Year's resolution to lose weight? Not so fast!" Not since Gordon Gekko glamorized greed in the Movie "Wall Street" has one of the Seven Deadly Sins been given such good press. But now it seems that gluttony is "in." Or is it?
First, it's important to understand who among us is now considered safe. Whereas we commonly use the words "fat" or "obese" to indicate the gamut of heavy people, the medical community divides us into four groups: Overweight, then Obesity Grades I, II, and III. These refinements are based on an individual's body mass index or B.M.I. It turns out that the merely Overweight, say 5'10'' and 209 pounds (Yes! That's considered overweight) have a smaller chance of dying than normal weight people. If you are Grade I Obese, say 235 or so at 5'10'', your chance of dying is roughly the same as a normal-weight person your height. Which of course is 100% eventually, but they mean your risk at any one time.
Ordinarily this would be considered great news, except for two tiny little problems. The report was just a large compilation of other studies and was based on statistical outcomes. In other words, they have no clue, none at all, why a little gluttony is good, just that it is, or might be. The other caveat is that if you have any of the conditions we associate with being heavy – such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and so on, then the extra weight is not protective and you should try to get back to normal.
Confused? Better yet, what should you do if you actually have to lose a little weight? There is a smorgasbord of trick diets on the market from pills to powders to protein shakes to points. Or you can count carbs or follow the latest fad or go cold-turkey . . . or. Whichever method you choose, you want to pick one that you can follow for a long time, like forever. As soon as the novelty of eating less and losing some weight wears off and you hit your first plateau, the stark reality of having to be careful 24/7 will invariably lead to rapid failure.
For modest weight loss, on the order of thirty pounds, it is advisable to establish a reasonable time frame. A year is usually realistic. Then institute incremental changes that you can accept on a long-term basis by giving up one at a time, a few bad, calorie-dense foods you know you shouldn't eat. One mistake dieters make is to try to change everything at once. The sudden deprivation is jarring and the diets almost always crash and burn. Finally, since the weight loss is going to be slow and steady, overcome the inclination for instant gratification and only weigh yourself once a month.