Harvard Medical School Weighs In

I recently received an email from Harvard Medical School (HMS) about their series of medically-related Special Health Reports. I purchased one on Women's Health Fifty and Forward for my wife and then saw another in their list titled "Lose Weight and Keep it Off." That one arrived just after we got home from a two-week vacation. On the morning we departed I weighed 149 pounds, the bottom edge of my goal weight of 149-150. I knew before we left that I wouldn't be sticking to my usual diet, but hadn't realized that I'd gain six and a half pounds on the trip.

I went back to the strict version of my diet as soon as we got home and three and a half of those extra pounds are gone already. This morning I weighed 152.2, within my acceptable range. Having started my dieting in May of 2009 at 177, I'm not too upset, but I wanted to look at the HMS take on dieting and especially on maintaining your weight goal once you've achieved it. I'd like to do better on vacations.

I had lots of excuses for my temporary weight gain: I was recovering from b ack surgery and couldn't exercise like I usually do six or seven days a week;we had visited relatives on the first leg of our trip and they fed us very well; the week-long Chautauqua stay was at a lovely hotel with abundant meals included and the final three days were spent visiting friends, one of whom is on the New York Times staff as a deputy food editor and took us to his favorite restaurants. I wasn't happy with my excuses.

The last chapter of the HMS report cites the statistic that 95% of people who lose weight will regain it in a few years. Well I'm interested in being in the 5% who can keep their weight off, so I read that chapter with great interest. It turns out there's a project, the National Weight Control Registry, that has been following over 5,000 long-term dieting successes. Of course, those people, in general, stick to diets that are healthy and don't have excess calories. They also exercise regularly.

That made sense, but it turns out that they differ considerably in their diets and what they do for exercise. What they do share is the ability to pick out an approach to eating and exercise that fits their own long-term goals. Then they adhere to that plan, get an hour of exercise a day, eat lots of fiber and less fat, weigh themselves at least weekly and don't watch much TV.

Okay, I do all of that and, having read the HMS publication, I realize watch TV is a double-edged sword. By that I mean you're stationary and you're exposed to lots of food commercials.

That's great stuff, but didn't tell me what to do on vacations. I think what I have to incorporate into my travel plans, maybe on my computerized pack lists, is a statement. "You're going on a trip, Peter. You're also going on your own diet plan, especially the part about portion control."

2 Responses to “Harvard Medical School Weighs In”

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