Dieters work hard to lose weight — and then most have to struggle to keep it off. In “The Step Diet Book,” the authors, Drs. James O. Hill and John C. Peters, contend that that the best way to avoid gaining weight is to understand your energy balance. Calories come in, calories go out — and when intake is greater than output, you gain weight. The authors recommend using a pedometer to figure out how many steps you take in an average day, then raise the number by 2,000, and eating 25 percent less of your food. Read an excerpt of their book:
Unless you live on a desert island, you are well aware that many of us are too heavy, and that this trend shows no signs of reversing itself. How can this be, you may wonder, with all the “miracle diets” to choose from? Lose 20 pounds in twenty days! Watch fat melt away like magic! You’ve seen the ads, you’ve listened to “diet doctors” reveal their secrets on talk shows, perhaps you’ve tried a fad diet or two. Some of these diets can give you dramatic results, but most focus on quick weight loss rather than long-term weight control. They are not based on sound scientific research. What good is losing
20 pounds in three weeks if you gain it back two months later? Obviously, your real goal should be to maintain whatever weight loss you achieve—and to achieve that loss with a plan that’s good for your overall health.
Most diets ultimately fail because they provide a temporary solution, not a permanent way to live your life at a lower weight. But there is a way to lose weight without giving those excess pounds a round-trip ticket. The Step Diet is based on scientific research conducted by us and by other researchers. We have studied not just how to lose weight, but how to make small, permanent changes in your lifestyle to keep that weight off forever. And it’s easy to get started—all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
Count Your Steps
Are you ready to make your first move toward permanent weight loss? Then take out the step counter that came with this book and clip it on your waist (to your belt, pants, or underwear). You have just begun the Step Diet, a scientifically based, people-tested, easy-to-follow program that will take you step by step toward successful weight management. Much more than a plan for simply losing weight, the Step Diet is about overcoming the environmental influences that trigger weight gain so you can keep the weight off. It is about putting you in control of sustaining a body weight that is healthy and right for you.
It is about starting where you are right now and making small lifestyle changes that will put you in control of your own weight.
We know from experience that most people can learn to control their weight. Many of us are capable of losing some weight and keeping it off for good. Others can still learn to avoid gaining the 1 to 2 pounds that most adults put on each year. Whatever your specific goal, keep in mind that you did not lose control of your weight overnight, and you won’t get it back overnight. But with the Step Diet, you can start managing your weight more effectively right now—and from now on.
A Different Approach to Weight Management
It’s actually not all that hard to lose weight; you just reduce the amount of food you eat. Why, then, do so many people fail at long-term weight management? A big reason is that while it is easy to eat less in the short term, it is very hard to eat less for the rest of your life. Is there an alternative to focusing primarily on food intake? Yes, and it’s really pretty simple. To lose weight successfully you need to reduce the energy you consume in relation to the energy your body burns through your resting metabolism and your physical activity. This is not new—most weight management plans work on this principle. What’s new is that the Step Diet does not focus on counting calories or eating particular foods like other plans. Instead, the Step Diet focuses on steps. That’s right, steps, but in this case, three kinds of steps: BodySteps, LifeSteps, and MegaSteps.
It’s really very simple. Diets that focus on calories or carbohydrate or fat grams are difficult. Think about yesterday. How many calories do you think you consumed? How many did your body burn in physical activity? If you are like most people, you have no idea.
Steps, on the other hand, can be easily measured with the step counter that comes with this book. All you have to do is wear it. It will count the number of steps you take each day very accurately. And since your resting metabolism can also be measured in steps (we’ll show you how in Chapter 4), this means you can keep track of the total energy your body burns—in steps. Even more exciting is that we’re going to show you how to convert the energy (in other words, the calories) in food into steps. Once you know how to do that, you’ll be able to monitor your personal energy balance in steps: how much you’ve eaten in steps; how much energy your body burns in steps. Once you think of your energy balance in steps, you can approach weight loss logically. As you lose weight, your metabolism goes down. This is because your body is getting smaller and requires less energy. It happens to everyone who loses weight, and there is just no way to prevent it. And it is the reason that most people fail at keeping weight off. Because your metabolism has dropped, you have to eat substantially fewer calories than you did before weight loss in order to stay at your new, lower weight. In other words, you have to eat less—forever. It is almost impossible for most people to do that for a long time, so the weight comes back.
The Step Diet works for long-term weight management because it shows you how to increase the number of steps you take each day to compensate for the drop in your metabolism. As the amount of energy your resting metabolism burns gradually drops, the number of steps you walk gradually increases, so that the total amount of energy your body burns will be similar after weight loss to what it was before weight loss. When you have finished losing weight with the Step Diet, you will be able to eat much more food than you would have been able to eat with other diets because your total daily energy expenditure will be higher. Now you will have a real chance to keep that weight off forever.
The Five Principles of the Step Diet
In the Step Diet, we bring the latest scientific knowledge about weight loss and maintenance of weight loss to you. Much of this research has been done with people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off long term. From this research, we have developed five principles for successful weight management:
Maintain the proper energy balance. Your weight is a direct consequence of the relationship between your energy intake and your energy expenditure. If you take in more energy than you burn (regardless of what kind of food
you eat), you will gain weight. If you burn more energy than you take in, you will lose weight. Maintaining a constant weight, no matter what that weight is, requires you to balance the energy in the food you eat with the energy you burn. The Step Diet provides you with the simple tools you need to manage your personal energy balance.
Small changes drive success. You have probably tried to make big lifestyle changes before — no carbs, no sugar, all liquids, whatever — and you have probably discovered that what is possible for weeks or even months becomes impossible over time. Consequently, you have lost and gained, lost and gained. With the Step Diet, you can break that devastating (and unhealthy) cycle by learning to make small, sustainable changes in how much energy your body burns and how much energy you take in.
Start with physical activity. A major focus of the Step Diet is on physical activity. This is because your body is designed to work best when you are physically active. A key reason why people cannot keep weight off is that they are not prepared to increase their physical activity permanently. Once you go off your diet, it stands to reason that you will put pounds back on if you start taking in more energy in the food you eat without increasing your physical activity. The good news is that you don’t have to sign up for the New York City Marathon to burn more energy — with the Step Diet, all you have to do is walk more each day.
Anticipate success, but not instantly. It will take time for you to see the results of the Step Diet, but it will be time well spent. By starting with small, incremental changes in how you eat and how much you move — and accepting that your goal is long-term weight management rather than a quick fix — you’ll find yourself building the confidence you need to stay on course to your weight-loss goal.
The maintenance of weight loss is more important than the speed or amount of weight loss. Most people want to lose weight as quickly as possible, which isn’t that hard to do. The hard part is keeping the weight off.
The Step Diet shows you how to lose weight and keep it off—without feeling constantly deprived of food. With the Step Diet, you will learn
to keep some weight off before you lose more. It may take longer than
some other diets to work, but the results will last.
The Six Stages of Weight Control
The best way to approach a big project is to break it down into small, manageable pieces. Permanent weight management is a very big project, so we have broken it down into six stages:
(seven days): Prepare for permanent weight management. You need to know what you are eating and how much physical activity you are currently getting in order to know what to change. Taking time at the beginning to determine this will pay off later.
(two weeks): Stop gaining weight. You need to complete this stage even if you are not actively gaining weight now. Why? Because before you can learn to lose weight, you have to learn what makes you gain it. And it isn’t just eating too much that keeps adding the pounds. The changes you make to stop gaining weight will lay the foundation both for losing weight and for keeping it off.
(time it takes you to read Chapter 4): Set your personal weight-management goals. Here you’ll learn to give yourself a personal weight-management target to shoot for that is realistic and sound for you. You’ll also learn how to track your progress toward that goal. Equipped with only your bathroom scale, your step counter, and a food record, you will be well on your way to weight management.
(twelve weeks maximum): Make small changes to lose weight. This is the core weight loss period during which you will make small changes in how much you eat and how many steps you take each day. You can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds each week—exactly the rate that maximizes your chances of keeping the weight off.
(four weeks minimum): Find your personal energy balance point. This crucial stage is where you learn how to keep your weight off. It calls for a different approach than you used when losing weight. During this stage, you devise a personal strategy for balancing the energy you eat with the energy your body burns—a strategy that fits comfortably into your lifestyle. You will learn how to use steps, not calories, to maintain energy balance. Even if you want to lose more weight, you must first believe that you can maintain your previous weight loss.
(as long as it takes): Plan for lifelong success. Think of this stage as your graduate seminar. Here you’ll learn some simple, fun ways to refine your energy balance skills. Most important, you’ll learn how to make weight management a habit in your life, something you no longer have to think about all the time—you’ll just do it!
When you’ve finished Stages 5 and 6, you may be ready to lose even more weight. Simply reset your goal (Stage 3) and repeat Stages 4 through 6. You can do this as many times as you like before you decide that you cannot make and sustain any further behavior changes. Notice that you are in charge. You decide on a weight loss you can maintain. You build in success up front. And you avoid the frustration that comes with losing more weight than you can comfortably keep off.
Whether you want to lose and keep off 10 pounds or 50, it is important to complete all six stages of the Step Diet. Obviously, a person who wants to lose and keep off 50 pounds will have to make greater lifestyle changes. Likewise, the time and effort required to accomplish each of the six stages will also vary from person to person. None of that matters now. Just start from where you are at this moment and get ready to make small but meaningful changes in your diet and physical activity patterns. These changes may be so small as to be hardly noticeable. But the difference they’ll make in the end will be enormous.
Excerpted from “The Step Diet Book,” by Drs. James O. Hill and John C. Peters, Copyright 2004 Drs. James O. Hill and John C. Peters. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from Workman Publishing.