The Skinny on Weight Loss

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Americans like a fast fix. A 10-minute oil change. Glasses in an hour. A new romantic interest with the swipe of a finger.

So when it comes to losing weight, diets that promise quick and easy results – 20 pounds in 30 days! – are tough to resist.

We are not a patient people. Our focus is fleeting. Which is why, in a nutshell, most diets don’t work.

“They cycle in fads, just like clothes and hairstyles, with about five or six overall themes,” says Theresa Crocker, PhD ’13, assistant professor in the USF College of Public Health and director of the nutrition and dietetics program.

If you change how you normally eat, you’ll likely have some success, she says. But restrictive diets are doomed to fail. If you don’t lose the weight in a way that’s sustainable – while eating with your family, dining out with friends, shopping for and preparing the food yourself – you’re going to struggle.

Most people, 80 to 95 percent depending on the study, gain the weight back. Many regain more than they lost.

Meanwhile, with restrictive diets, you’re performing a bit of a science experiment on your body, messing with your metabolism, depriving yourself of the nutrients you need, and possibly causing muscle loss, bone loss and other long-term damage.

The trouble, says Dr. Watson Ducatel, ‘06, is that people desperate to lose weight get taken advantage of by companies more interested in selling them something than improving their health.

They see commercials that put a priority on pounds lost, goal weights, and before-and-after photos. Unless you look closely, it’s easy to miss the disclaimer: “Results Not Typical.”

“Developing a proper weight-loss program takes time,” says Dr. Ducatel, an internist who shares a practice in Brandon, Healthy Bodies Medical and Dental Center, with his wife, Dr. Martha Ducatel, ‘06, a dentist. Both believe in educating patients.

“The first thing you need to know is why your weight is a problem,” he says.

He starts by talking to patients about what they think is normal or abnormal, and asks them to assess their own weight, and how that makes them feel. “Let’s find out about you,” Ducatel says, “because you’re the one controlling this thing.”

The conversation moves on to what could have caused the weight gain: a health problem, bad habits, genetics, cultural norms, or something else. For most people, it’s necessary to determine what will work long-term.

You’re not going to want to hear this (though, surely, you’ve heard it before), but the key to weight loss is making lifestyle changes you can successfully embrace over your lifespan, says Heather Agazzi, ’97, MS ’11 and PhD ’07, Life Member. She’s an assistant professor and psychologist in pediatrics at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Take small steps and make them the new normal.”

And remember, the choices you make don’t affect  just you. If you’re a parent, you’re passing those behaviors on to your children, Agazzi says.

Story by Kim Franke-Folstad. Reposted from USF Magazine. Click here to read the full story.

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