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ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal:
doi: 10.1249/01.FIT.0000298465.60500.a9
Departments: You Asked For It: Question Authority

You Asked For It: Question Authority

Nieman, David C. Dr.P.H., FACSM

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David C. Nieman, Dr.P.H., FACSM, is professor and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. He is an active researcher and author of several textbooks on health and fitness. Email your questions to:


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A: With apologies to Paul Simon, here is a list providing "50 ways to leave your blubber." This list is based on scientific evidence with no hocus pocus (i.e., quackery) (1-9). Notice that the list is evenly divided between physical activity, diet, and behavior modification recommendations, an approach consistent with weight loss and maintenance success (8).

1. Put in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day (can be accumulated).

2. Develop "caloric awareness" or the ability to count the calories going into your mouth, and balance them with the energy expended through metabolism and physical activity.

3. Walk your dog every day whether you have one or not.

4. Have three light-to-moderate meals a day at set times, with no snacks.

5. Seek every opportunity to move your legs. Develop a physical activity mentality.

6. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.

7. Take the stairs whenever possible, and avoid escalators and elevators.

8. Limit your intake of fatty foods such as cheese, oils, butter, ground beef, and fatty meats.

9. Weigh yourself every week, and aim for a steady half-to-two pounds of weight loss per week.

10. Have your body fat tested at a human performance lab, and then, retest every 2 to 3 months.

11. Get your spouse involved and lean on him or her for support when the going gets tough.

12. Keep a diet diary during the first 2 weeks, and record the amounts of food consumed and circumstances surrounding the eating episodes. Identify and then control the triggers that prompt you to eat too much (e.g., reading, television viewing, depression, eating out, etc.).

13. Develop a reward system with your spouse or family when you meet weight loss goals.

14. Grocery shop wisely by using a list, and avoid going to a store when hungry.

15. Plan your meals, and stick to it. Make an appointment with a dietitian to learn how to plan meals using the food exchange system.

16. Reduce temptation by storing food out of sight.

17. When possible, eat meals in the same place each day.

18. Keep serving dishes off the table.

19. Use smaller dishes and portion sizes.

20. Practice polite ways to decline foods not on your list when at parties or social functions.

21. Slow down the process of eating by putting down your fork between bites.

22. Stay healthy while losing weight by eating a balanced diet in accordance with the food pyramid. There is no long-term benefit in a high-protein diet.

23. Avoid gimmicks such as grapefruit pills, sauna belts, body wraps, ear staples, hormone releasers, and so on. Rely on your diet and physical activity plan.

24. Don't reward yourself with more food after exercising.

25. Park your car in the far corner of the parking lot.

26. Have walking meetings at work instead of sitting in the office.

27. Take a walk after dinner.

28. Plan vacations that involve high amounts of physical activity such as ski trips, mountain hikes, swimming, and sports.

29. Buy a pedometer and count your steps-aim for 10,000 steps each day.

30. If possible, ride your bike or walk all or part of the way to work.

31. Play sports with your children.

32. Get your resting metabolic rate (RMR) measured at a human performance laboratory, so that you know how much energy you burn when resting. Retest your RMR again after you lose 10% of your body weight.

33. Walk between flights at the airport.

34. Exercise with a friend or group for social support.

35. Vary your exercise program, and emphasize enjoyment.

36. Make exercise convenient by limiting time, travel, and disruptions in family relationships.

37. Buy a treadmill and/or stationary bicycle to exercise in your home when the weather is bad.

38. Exercise during your lunch break using the fitness center at your worksite.

39. Spend no more than 2 hours a day sitting and watching television, surfing the Internet, and so on.

40. Aim for at least 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day.

41. Eat at least 3 oz of whole grain cereals, breads, rice, or pasta each day (1 oz = 1 slice of bread; approximately 1 cup of breakfast cereal; or ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta).

42. Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk (or equivalent milk products).

43. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry, and then bake, broil, or grill.

44. Keep protein intake moderate, and learn to eat a variety of healthy sources such as fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

45. Limit intake of refined grains, total fats, and added sugars (especially from carbonated drinks).

46. No need to abstain from alcoholic beverages, but drink them in moderation (up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men).

47. Choose baked and broiled foods instead of fried foods.

48. Snacks should be avoided, but if you must snack, choose fruits and vegetables.

49. Maintain your healthy physical activity and eating habits for a lifetime.

50. Most of all, you must stay highly motivated to become and stay lean. Make this one of the top priorities of your life, or as Paul Simon might urge:

Just get off the bus, Gus.

Move your feet each day, Jay.

Cut down on the fat, Matt.

Make a new plan, Stan.

Here are 50 ways to leave your blubber.

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1. Dansinger, M.L., A. Tatsioni, J.B. Wong, et al. Meta-analysis: the effect of dietary counseling for weight loss. Annals of Internal Medicine 147(1):41-50, 2007.

2. Savoye, M., M. Shaw, J. Dziura, et al. Effects of a weight management program on body composition and metabolic parameters in overweight children: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 297(24):2697-2704, 2007.

3. Catenacci, V.A., and H.R. Wyatt. The role of physical activity in producing and maintaining weight loss. Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism 3(7):518-529, 2007.

4. King, N.A., P. Caudwell, M. Hopkins, et al. Metabolic and behavioral compensatory responses to exercise interventions: barriers to weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring) 15(6):1373-1383, 2007.

5. Ello-Martin, J.A., L.S. Roe, J.H. Ledikwe, et al. Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85(6):1465-1477, 2007.

6. Wilding, J.P. Treatment strategies for obesity. Obesity Reviews 8(Suppl. 1):137-144, 2007.

7. Foster, G.D., A.P. Makris, and B.A. Bailer. Behavioral treatment of obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82(1 Suppl.):230S-235S, 2005.

8. Hill, J.O., H. Wyatt, S. Phelan, et al. The National Weight Control Registry: is it useful in helping deal with our obesity epidemic? Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 37(4):206-210, 2005.

9. Schneider, P.L., D.R. Bassett, Jr., D.L. Thompson, et al. Effects of a 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults. American Journal of Health Promotion 21(2):85-89, 2006.

© 2008 American College of Sports Medicine


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