Slow weight loss more lasting than drastic dieting

For many Santa Monica College students, summer consists of surfing, sailing, swimming, travelling, and sunbathing. With these activities on the horizon, some may forgo that ice cream cone on a hot summer day, or sacrifice that juicy hamburger at a barbeque, while adopting extreme diets in attempt to perfect their beach bodies. For 18-year-old SMC student Geraldine Guzman Hernandez, however, hamburgers and tacos are typical meals. As a dancer, she stays in shape, and finds that she does not need to stress about attaining an ideal “bikini body.”

“I am the type of person that eats a lot, but never gets fat, so I never have to worry about changing my workout plans for summer,” says Guzman.

Though health experts recommend slow weight loss for optimal results, many summer dieters adopt fad diets and cleanses that promise drastic weight loss in short amounts of time.

The Master Cleanse entails drinking only water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for 10 straight days. In the Cabbage Soup Diet, all a person eats for 10 days is cabbage soup. The Cookie Diet consists of cookies that contain a “special amino acid formula to assist with weight loss," says registered dietitian and Santa Monica College nutrition professor Yvonne Ortega.

Though these diets may yield quick weight loss, Ortega does not recommend relying on them to lose weight in the long run. Most fad diets are not meant to keep weight off, so a person will likely gain back the pounds they lost once they resume their previous eating habits.

“The key to success is maintaining the weight loss,” says Ortega. “If you maintain the weight loss for one year, there is a high chance you will not gain it back.”

According to Ortega, weight loss consists of both decreasing caloric and fat intake, especially saturated fats.

Dieters are often advised to avoid empty calories such as candy, french fries, potato chips, and other fried foods, and resist the urge to drink soda and alcoholic beverages, which are all packed with hundreds of calories that provide little to no nutritional value.

“It is recommended that a person strive for a one-to-two-pound weight loss per week, or 10 percent of their body weight in six months,” she says, explaining that this approach is the healthy, long-term alternative to fad diets.

In order to maintain weight loss, Ortega says that dieting alone is not enough, as fat must be burned and muscles strengthened. Typically, a person must burn more calories than they consume per day. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so a deficit of 3,500 calories must be created to lose a pound.

“Exercise is critical to [weight loss] success and overall health,” says Ortega.

Exercising for 60 to 90 minutes a day is recommended for weight loss, but most people are not even reaching 30 minutes a day, she says.

“My favorite workouts are dancing and running,” says Guzman. “I do not exercise often, but when I dance, I can dance for hours. I believe dancing is a good workout.”

Leslie Porter, a yoga and Pilates instructor at SMC, suggests a balance of both diet and several forms of exercise for effective weight loss. She recommends following an exercise program four to six times per week, starting with a short amount of time, and working up to the recommendation.

“It’s important to include all aspects of fitness into your program like stretching, resistance training, as well as cardio,” Ortega says. “Muscles will burn more energy than fat, so exercise will definitely help with weight loss.”

“Cardio” includes running, jogging, dancing, swimming, and any form of exercise that keeps the heart rate above 70 beats per minute.

“Listen to your body, and take days off to rest if you’re exhausted,” suggests Porter, who emphasizes that stress, hormones, and lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.

“Summer is almost here, so getting fit in two weeks is more like a New Year’s Eve resolution that a healthy fitness goal,” says Porter. “It’s better to think long-term than short-term. Be gentle with the process.”