How To Lose Weight


scale
TLC
The best method to lose weight is to stick with an eating plan. See more weight loss tips pictures.

So you've decided to lose weight. But how do you do it? There are many ways to lose weight, but the best method is to choose an eating plan that is healthy and balanced and that you can stick with in the long run.

As difficult as losing weight may seem, the real challenge is keeping the weight off. To be successful, you'll need to replace poor eating habits with healthy ones that are realistic and flexible enough to be followed for life.

Some diet programs promise weight reductions of more than two or three pounds a week, but such claims are not completely honest. Ten or more pounds in the first few weeks is possible, but that quick weight loss won't last.

Initially, weight reduction comes mostly from the loss of water and the breakdown of muscle protein, not fat. When you eventually replace these vital substances -- as will happen when you resume normal eating habits -- you are likely to regain the weight. Diets that promote transient weight losses can do psychological harm. Few things are more discouraging than watching a 10- or 20-pound weight loss evaporate into a 2- or 3-pound loss.

Weight Loss Tips

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established to document effective behaviors shared by those who successfully lose weight and keep it off. The NWCR found that those who successfully lost weight dropped an average of 66 pounds over 5.5 years. To achieve this, individuals not only adhered to a low-calorie, low-fat diet that included breakfast and closely monitored their weight and food intake, but they also engaged in high levels of physical activity.

That may sound difficult, but you can find motivation by learning some of the benefits of losing weight on the next page.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

The Benefits of Losing Weight

Reminders of the aesthetic benefits of losing weight bombard us constantly. But the importance of weight control goes beyond appearance...way beyond. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers.

Specifically, overweight and obesity tends to raise total blood-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, as well as lower HDL-cholesterol levels. If you carry excess weight around your waist, your chance of developing metabolic syndrome increases, too.

But weight control is a powerful weapon in the struggle to reduce the risk of these health problems. Losing weight helps lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, and it may even raise HDL cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

What's more, you do not necessarily have to lose large amounts of weight to reap the benefits. Studies have shown that even modest weight loss can lower blood-cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improve conditions related to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Of course, this is true largely if the extra weight is from fat. The next page explains the difference between being overweight and overfat.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential to the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.
  • Coronary Heart Disease: This condition is the culmination of years of plaque buildup in the arteries. Find out how to prevent it.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Am I Overweight or Overfat?

With two-thirds of Americans either overweight or obese, it has become "normal" to have excess body fat, but this "overfat" condition poses serious health risks. Moreover, the location of this excess body fat -- above the belt or below it -- impacts our susceptibility to a variety of health problems. If the excess body fat is in the abdomen, then slimming down may help to decrease risk.

While many people who are overweight have excess body fat, being overweight is not exactly the same as being overfat. Body weight includes the weight of the lean tissues -- muscle, internal organs, bone, and the water they contain -- in addition to body fat. Muscle is heavy. Therefore, it's possible that a muscular person might be overweight without being overfat. Despite this important distinction, the vast majority of people who are overweight are indeed overfat.

Sometimes we may be heavier than usual because of water retention. Women are particularly sensitive to this "bloating" just before their menstrual periods, though both men and women may experience this sensation after they eat a particularly salty meal. And it doesn't take much water to add weight to the body: Two cups of water weigh slightly more than one pound.

Weight gain from water retention is easy to recognize because, unlike weight gain from muscle or fat, it can appear almost overnight. It can also disappear just as quickly. But you need not be concerned about water retention unless it is excessive. For example, weight gain from water of more than ten pounds usually reflects edema, which is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

Muscle is heavy; it contains water in addition to muscle cells. After you begin an exercise program, you may find that you actually weigh a bit more than you used to. Muscles, especially the large ones in the legs, can increase in size with regular exercise, possibly adding a few pounds or more to your weight. But muscle takes up less space than fat, pound for pound, so you appear thinner even though you weigh more. More importantly, despite this extra weight, you are also likely to be healthier.

Because of this, your Body Mass Index is a more telling sign of overall health than your weight is. Learn about BMI on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • Choosing a Diet Program: To choose a diet program, you'll want to find one that's healthy and that fits your lifestyle. Learn what to ask to find the one for you.
  • Benefits of Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you with everything from keeping weight off to preventing heart disease. Find out how to improve and extend your life through exercise.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index takes into account your height, weight, and percentage of body fat. This is significant because fat does not weigh as much as water or muscle.

Ironically, you have to accumulate larger amounts of fat than muscle (or water) in order to gain the same amount of weight. You appear slimmer when you gain weight from added muscle, but you look larger when you gain weight from added fat.

The bathroom scale is not very accurate at measuring body fat or the health risks associated with it. It can't distinguish between lean muscle tissue, organs, water weight, and body fat. Neither can it tell you where you carry most of the fat on your body.

A measurement called the body mass index, or BMI, is better than the bathroom scale at evaluating a person's health risks associated with weight. Although not a precise measurement of body fat, BMI takes body fat into account. BMI is calculated using your weight and height, so it's an easy and inexpensive way to find out if you're at a healthy weight.

To determine your BMI, use this formula:
  • Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 703.
  • Divide this number by your height (in inches).
  • Divide this number by your height (in inches), again.

To determine your BMI, visit Discovery Health's online body mass calculator.

Once you've calculated your BMI, you'll want to know what it means. BMI values are divided into categories that reflect a person's weight status: underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.

BMI Weight Category
Below 18.5
Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 Normal
24.9 to 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and above Obese

Knowing your BMI is a great starting point to maintaining a healthy weight, but it is not always the best method of measurement for some people. For example, athletes and body builders may have a high BMI, but in reality, their percent of body fat may be very low. Children should not use adult BMI tables, and the elderly may be healthier in a slightly higher BMI range to protect against osteoporosis. In addition, BMI does not tell you precisely how much body fat you have or where it's located -- two important indicators of risk.

There are other ways to tell how much body fat you have. The next page explains what those are.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Once you know which foods are healthy for you, you can arrange them into entire meals. Get some suggestions on how to eat healthy all day long.
  • Benefits of Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you with everything from keeping weight off to preventing heart disease. Find out how to improve and extend your life through exercise.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Measure Body Fat

Before you learn how to measure body fat, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that there is a fairly wide range of body fat that a person can have and still be considered healthy. In general, body fat over 25 percent in men and 32 percent in women increases health risk.

So how do you estimate your body fat? There are a few ways, and some are more practical and less expensive than others. Waist circumference, which assesses abdominal fat, is more predictive of the risk of coronary heart disease than boday mass index. In addition, a waist measuring more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men raises the risk of other obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and it is one of the factors used to diagnose metabolic syndrome.

Similarly, the INTERHEART study found that abdominal obesity as measured using a ratio of fat distribution (determined by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement) over 1.0 for men and 0.8 for women increased the risk of heart attack by up to 2.5 times.

Using a caliper, a skinfold test estimates body fat by taking a pinch of skin in the abdominal area, upper arm, and back to measure the thickness; this test, however, may not provide an accurate measurement in obese individuals.

Another test, bioelectrical impedance analysis, measures body fat by evaluating how well a tiny electric current is conducted through the body. Muscle and water conduct electricity, and the current passes through them easily. However, fat does not conduct electricity, and the current meets resistance. Because conductivity is sensitive to water, changes in hydration can produce different results in the measurement.

Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry is an accurate method to measure body composition using two low-dose X-rays to determine total body fat, fat distribution, and bone mass and density. Underwater weighing -- which calculates dense muscle tissue and fat tissue -- and air displacement plethysmography are two more methods of measuring body composition.

If you find that you have a little too much body fat, the American Heart Association has recommended solutions. Learn how to change your diet and your lifestyle on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • Coronary Heart Disease: This condition is the culmination of years of plaque buildup in the arteries. Find out how to prevent it.
  • Diabetes: This disease, which affects blood sugar levels, affects more than 20 million Americans. Start here to understand diabetes.
  • Benefits of Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you with everything from keeping weight off to preventing heart disease. Find out how to improve and extend your life through exercise.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Examine What You Eat

Your best defense against illness and disease is to examine what you eat and make sure it's healthy. Take a look at your diet. By comparing your eating habits with what the experts advise, you'll have a better idea of how to make changes that will benefit your heart.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has developed dietary and lifestyle recommendations to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. These guidelines are intended for the general public and provide guidance for adults and children over age two. Rather than focusing on a single food or nutrient, the AHA puts the emphasis on your overall diet.

  • Balance calorie intake and physical activity to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Consume a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
  • Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of energy, trans fat to less than 1 percent, and cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day by choosing lean meats and vegetable alternatives; selecting fat-free (skim), 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products; and minimizing intake of partially hydrogenated fats.
  • Minimize your intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
  • If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • When you eat food that is prepared outside of the home, try to follow these recommendations.
The next page has a simple checklist to help you determine what your current diet looks like.

For more information about losing weight, see:
  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • Benefits of Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you with everything from keeping weight off to preventing heart disease. Find out how to improve and extend your life through exercise.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Diet Check

This diet check will help you figure out if you're one of the many people whose diet is too high in fat and cholesterol. According to recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, American men and women consume about 33 percent of calories from fat, and about 11 percent comes from saturated fat. During those same years, dietary cholesterol averaged 341 mg for men and 242 mg for women.

The average American adult consumes too much saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, and probably too much from trans fat as well! To get a general idea of whether your diet is high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, read through the following list and mark each statement that applies to you.

Diet Check

You frequently eat hamburger, pork chops, luncheon meats, ham, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, or ribs.

You eat fast foods, including French fries, regularly.


You frequently eat hard cheeses, processed cheese, and cheese spreads.


You eat more than three to four egg yolks a week. (If your blood-cholesterol level is not elevated, this should not be a concern.)

You drink whole milk or use half-and-half.


You use butter often.


You frequently eat full-fat ice cream.


You eat the skin along with the chicken.


You prefer your vegetables to be fried, buttered, creamed, or served with cheese sauce.

You eat foods cooked in bacon grease or pan drippings from meats.


You eat stick margarine rather than trans-fat-free margarine.


You frequently eat commercially prepared baked goods, such as pastries, doughnuts, pies, cakes, and other processed foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

Each of these statements indicates a food choice that is high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or a combination of the three. Ideally, none of these statements will apply to you. On the other hand, the more statements that do apply, the more changes you'll likely need to make to improve the quality of your diet.

Now that you know you need to down on fat, you may have to train yourself not to desire it. The next page explains the fat appetite and how to control it.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential to the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

The Fat Appetite

Our appetite for fat is a learned one. On a sensory level, we experience fat. When you eat a food rich in fat, it almost always tastes good. Mayonnaise, meat, cheese, chocolate, and ice cream have little about their flavors in common, but they all contain large amounts of fat. And the fat is part of what makes eating these foods and others like them an enjoyable experience.

In fact, this experience can be so pleasurable that you want to taste the food again and again. Some people may actually feel as if they crave high-fat foods. Yet, it is possible to teach your taste buds to enjoy other foods with less fat. By cutting back on fat, you may not only lower your cholesterol but also control your weight as well.

Now that you know how you got an appetite for fat, you can learn to suppress it. Find out more on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • The Facts on Fats: Fat is a big part of the American diet, and it affects your cholesterol levels and the health of your heart. Learn about different types of fat and which are healthier than others.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Making the Adjustment

Learning to suppress the fat appetite can be challenging, but the availability of naturally low-fat foods and the variety of lower-fat versions of high-fat foods helps make the change to a lower-fat eating style more manageable. Having more low-fat foods at home can make it easier to adhere to this way of eating, too.

If you're used to eating high-fat foods, learning to like foods with less fat could take time -- about 8 to 12 weeks. After this time has passed, however, high-fat foods will most likely not have the same appeal.

The steps you take to approach a new way of eating should be positive ones, because positive steps reinforce new behavior better than negative ones. Rather than thinking, "I can't eat this or that," find foods that you can eat more of, such as raw or cooked vegetables or fruit salad with nonfat or low-fat dressing.

During the transition to low-fat foods, use reduced-fat foods in place of the high-fat versions; this will wean your taste buds off high-fat foods and is a better approach than simply eliminating high-fat foods altogether. Instead of butter or full-fat margarine, mayonnaise, or sour cream, look for reduced-fat or lower-fat versions of these foods; many of them are good quality, tasty replacements. Also look for low-fat or low-calorie cookbooks or healthy recipes on the Internet to help make this new way of eating more of a sensory delight. And don't forget the spices; these are a wonderful, no-fat method to infuse your food with flavor while shifting your dependence away from fat!

If you're a dessert lover, finding satisfying, healthier alternatives is important. Indeed, the sugar-fat blend is considered one of the most compelling of all flavor combinations. However, this food combination may also lead to weight gain, more so than other foods. This is because sugar stimulates the hormone insulin, which promotes the storage of fat when more calories are taken in than the body needs.

Substitute fruit for fruit pie and sugar-free chocolate pudding made with low-fat milk for chocolate cake. If you absolutely must have that cheesecake, take a few bites, savor them, and then walk away from the rest.

Fortunately, you don't have to eliminate fat entirely from your diet. Find out how much you should be eating, along with other dietary guidelines, on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • The Facts on Fat: Fat is an essential nutrient, but some forms are more harmful than others. Learn about different types of fat.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Plan of Action

To adopt a diet that is low in unhealthy fats, you need a plan of action. You should set goals for yourself and then decide on the changes you can make in order to meet those goals.

The National Cholesterol Education Program developed the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program, which includes a healthy diet, and the American Heart Association has adopted these guidelines.

Nutritional Composition of TLC Diet

Nutrient

Recommended Intake (as Percent of Total Calories)
Total fat 25-35%
Saturated fat Less than 7%
Polyunsaturated fat Up to 10%
Monounsaturated fat
Up to 20%
Trans fat Keep it low (AHA recommends less than 1%)
Cholesterol Less than 200 mg per day
Carbohydrates 50-60%
Fiber 20-30 g per day (soluble and insoluble)
Protein Approximately 15%

 

The guidelines recommend that you eat 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories as fat. But what does that mean? Well, first of all, you need to know your daily calorie requirements. How many calories your body needs each day largely depends on your gender, age, and level of activity.

For the most part, men require more calories than women to maintain their weight. And the more active you are, the more energy, or calories, your body needs to fuel that activity. Fewer calories are needed as people grow older, which is due primarily to the lower level of activity typically found among older people.

The next page tells you how many calories you need, according to age, gender and activity level.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • Choosing a Diet Program: To choose a diet program, you'll want to find one that's healthy and that fits in your lifestyle. Learn what to ask to find the one for you.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Estimating Your Calorie Intake

To help you estimate what your average daily calorie intake should be, check the table below. The calorie information is adapted from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and is meant for weight maintenance.

These estimates are based on the calorie needs of adult men and women of average height and desirable weight and are broken down into age group and activity level. The complete table is available at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter2.htm.



Activity Level

Gender Age (years) Sedentary Moderately Active Active
Female

19-30
31-50
51+
2,000
1,800
1,600
2,000-2,200
2,000
1,800
2,400
2,200
2,000-2,200
Male

19-30
31-50
51+
2,400
2,200
2,000
2,600-2,800
2,400-2,600
2,200-2,400
3,000
2,800-3,000
2,400-2,800

Once you have an idea of what your daily calorie intake should be, you'll want to know how many of those calories should come from fat. The next page gives you specifics for fat intake.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • Benefits of Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you with everything from keeping weight off to preventing heart disease. Find out how to improve and extend your life through exercise.
  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Calories From Fat

According to the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program, 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories should come from fat. To find out the recommended minimum and maximum number of calories that should come from fat, multiply your total daily calorie intake by 25 percent and 35 percent (0.25 and 0.35). For example, if your daily calorie intake is 2,000, multiply 2,000 by 0.25, which is 500, and then multiply 2,000 by 0.35, which is 700. That means 500 to 700 of the calories you consume each day should come from fat.

This figure is helpful, but you can go further and find out how many grams of fat you can consume each day. The Nutrition Facts panel on food products lists grams of fat as well as calories from fat; similarly, recipes that provide nutrition information list the fat content in grams for one serving of the recipe. Since 1 gram of fat yields nine calories (regardless of whether it is saturated or unsaturated), you simply divide both 500 and 700 calories (given the example above based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories) by nine to determine the grams of fat. In this case, you should consume 56 to 78 grams of fat each day.

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program also specifies how that daily fat intake should be divided among types of fat -- saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Less than 7 percent of your total daily calorie intake should come from saturated fat. To figure the amount of fat (in grams) allowed from saturated fat, using our example of 2,000 daily calories, multiply 2,000 by 0.07 (7 percent), which is 140 calories. Then divide 140 by nine (since 1 gram of fat yields nine calories) and you get 16 grams of saturated fat. The same method holds true for figuring amounts of polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.

To review, 25 to 35 percent of an individual's total calories should come from fats of all kinds. Most important, on the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program, less than 7 percent of total calories should come from saturated fat, up to 10 percent from polyunsaturated fat, and up to 20 percent from monounsaturated fat. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program does not specify a limit for trans fat, but the American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat to less than 1 percent of total calories. The table below shows how much total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat is recommended for various calorie levels.

Daily
Calories
Total Fat in
Grams (25-35%)
Saturated Fat in
Grams (Less Than 7%)
Trans Fat in Grams
(Less Than 1%)
1,600 44-62 < 12 < 2
1,800 50-70 < 14 < 2
2,000 56-78 < 16 < 2
2,400 67-93 < 19 < 3
2,800 78-109 < 22 < 3

In order to meet these recommendations for fat, you probably need to change the proportion of different types of fat that you eat. You especially want to eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat and replace them with foods high in monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Since many high-fat foods are also high in saturated fat, you will automatically decrease your saturated fat intake when you decrease your total fat.

Find out which foods are high in saturated fat on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • Food Labeling: Everything you need to know to stick to your diet plan is on the label of the food you buy. Learn how to read those nutritional labels.
  • The Facts on Fat: Fat is an essential nutrient, but some forms are more harmful than others. Learn about saturated fat, trans fat, and other types of fat.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Fat In Foods

Much of the saturated fat in the foods that make up the typical American diet comes from animal products. Dairy products made from whole milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream add hefty doses of saturated fat to the diet. The marbling and visible fat in meat are also high in saturated fat. Most of the saturated fat in poultry is found in the skin.

While vegetable fats are generally low in saturated fats, there are a few exceptions. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the highest in saturated fat of the vegetable oils; cocoa butter and palm oil also contain saturated fat. The fat content of palm kernel oil is not the same as palm oil; palm kernel oil is over 80 percent saturated fat, whereas palm oil is about half saturated fat and half unsaturated fat.

Hydrogenated oils undergo a process that adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, which makes them more saturated and solid. Food processors hydrogenate oils to improve shelf life and to give foods desirable taste and texture. Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fat. Foods that contain hydrogenated oils or trans fat include stick margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, and fried fast food, such as French fries.

In general, soft margarines (in tub, liquid, or spray form) and light margarines have less trans fat than hard margarines. Some margarines are now trans-fat free. Check the product label to see if it contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and if it is free of trans fat.

When you do choose foods that contain fat, you should select those that contain mostly monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Oils rich in monounsaturated fat include olive oil and canola oil. Sources of polyunsaturated fat include cooking oils made from cottonseed, corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower, as well as nuts and seeds. Fish also contain the polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids.

If you need to lose weight, cutting down on fat can help you decrease your calories and lower your blood-cholesterol level (especially if you lose that weight by eating less saturated fat and trans fat). To lower high blood cholesterol, it's also wise to limit cholesterol in your diet. However, dietary cholesterol does not have as great an impact on blood cholesterol as saturated fat or trans fat. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program recommends that people with high blood cholesterol should limit dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg each day. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 300 mg a day for the general public.

Cholesterol is found exclusively in animal products, including dairy products, meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and shellfish. Foods from plant sources contain no cholesterol (unless, of course, they are served with animal products like cream sauces or cheese). Since many of the foods that are high in saturated fat also contain cholesterol, the cholesterol in your diet should decrease as you reduce the amount of saturated fat that you eat. A common source of cholesterol in the American diet is egg yolks (a single egg yolk contains about 213 mg of cholesterol), so if your blood cholesterol is elevated, you may want to limit eggs to three or four a week, or use egg substitutes which do not contain cholesterol.

However, population studies suggest that eating up to an egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy people, nor is eating eggs linked to increased blood cholesterol levels in these individuals. It's even been suggested that the nutrients in eggs -- including folate, vitamins B12 and E, unsaturated fat, and antioxidants -- may provide heart-healthy benefits that counterbalance the potential adverse effects of cholesterol in eggs. Nevertheless, since people vary widely in their response to dietary cholesterol, if you have elevated blood cholesterol, it's wise to limit high-cholesterol foods.

Armed with this information about fat and calories, you can stick to your diet plan. Learn more about staying the course on the next page.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential to the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.
  • The Facts on Fat: Fat is an essential nutrient, but some forms are more harmful than others. Learn about saturated fat, trans fat and other types of fat.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Staying on Course

Now that you know how to lose weight through diet, it's important to stay on course even when you veer a little bit.

If you've been making a sincere effort to cut down on the saturated fat and trans fat in your diet and you've begun eating healthier, it doesn't mean you can no longer eat high-fat foods at all. You can indulge in a favorite high-fat food on occasion, as long as it doesn't become a habit. It's not just what you eat -- saturated fat and trans fat are bigger culprits than unsaturated fats -- it's also how much and how often you indulge that makes the difference.

With the information in this article, you'll be better equipped to make healthy choices and resist those high-fat foods more often.

For more information about losing weight, see:

  • 10 Ways to Eat Healthier: Developing good eating habits is as much about making lifestyle changes as it is learning about food. Get started on the road to better eating.
  • The Fats on Fat: Fat is an essential nutrient, but some forms are more harmful than others. Learn about saturated fat, trans fat and other types of fat.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adrienne Forman, M.S., R.D., is a consultant and freelance writer, specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the editor of Shape Up America! newsletter, an online publication, and has been a contributing editor of Environmental Nutrition newsletter for the past 14 years. Adrienne is a former Senior Nutritionist at Weight Watchers International, where she was instrumental in creating multiple weight-loss programs, including their popular Points® program.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.