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The big secret to losing weight
Prairie Doc
Andrew Ellsworth, M.D.  new
Andrew Ellsworth M.D.

People often think they need to lose weight. The hard part, of course, is following through on that desire in a sustained and successful manner. Here are a few of the ways people do lose weight, and the secrets of their success. Some people should not lose weight, so please talk to your doctor.

First of all, consider the reasons to lose weight. Benefits can include having more energy, improved mobility, fewer aches and pains, sleeping better, improvement in mood, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Some may do it for a positive self image, but that reason alone may be hard to satisfy. 

The secret to success is eating less and exercising more. Do that, and one can get all those benefits without actually losing weight. If the pounds fall with time, great, but if they do not, please do not get discouraged. You are healthier with efforts at eating less and exercising more, even if the weight does not drop.  

Try keeping track of everything you eat. Counting calories can help you second guess those poor decisions. Meanwhile, logging your exercise can help motivate you to do more. Consider an app that tracks food and activity. Some apps have a social component or a health coach which may help with following through with your goals. 

We have all seen diets that promise fast results. Indeed, many can be quite successful in the short term. You may know someone that lost over 50 pounds with a ketogenic, high protein diet. Unfortunately, they are hard to sustain, and people often find themselves right back where they started, but even more frustrated. Many fad diets involve buying something and eating more of something. While they could be helpful, long term success depends on some level of eating less and exercising more.  

One extreme way people lose weight is with bypass surgery. Those can vary, but essentially the surgery helps by limiting the amount of food you consume, helping to decrease your appetite, decreasing your calorie intake, decreasing the absorption of food, and helping you lose weight. Certainly, there are risks of complications, and risks of vitamin deficiencies. Sometimes people gradually eat more over time and gain the weight back. This is why the most successful bariatric surgery programs stress the importance of a healthy diet and exercise even before surgery, to help retrain people’s behavior to improve long term success. 

A newer way many people have been losing weight is with a diabetes medication. These medications, GLP-1 agonists, are often a once a week or daily injection, although even newer ones can be taken by mouth. For weight loss, they help by decreasing your appetite and helping you feel full faster. Thus, they help you eat less. Currently they are expensive.

Once again, the secret to weight loss is to eat less and exercise more. Now you have it. How do you do that successfully? Sure and steady progress. Set a behavior goal, and turn it into a habit. Remember, when you eat less and exercise more, you are healthier regardless of weight.

Richard P. Holm, MD passed away in March 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He is founder of The Prairie Doc. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc library, visit www.prairiedoc.organd follow Prairie Doc on Facebook. Andrew Ellsworth, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, S.D.