Obesity among children and adults dramatically increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What are the contributing factors that lead to being overweight? In this seminar, Harvard Medical School doctors and researchers will address the stigma that surrounds obesity and discuss concrete methods, including changes to sleep and diet, that could help scale back this growing problem. Each spring, Harvard Medical School's Office of Communications and External Relations organizes a series of four free "mini-med school" classes for the general public in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area. At the end of the seminar series, participants who attend three out of the four sessions receive a certificate of completion. Topics are selected for their appeal to a lay audience and have included the human genome, nutrition, sleep dynamics and health care access. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliate hospitals volunteer their time to present these lectures to the community. More »
Fiola Sowemimo, MD, board-certified in internal and bariatric medicine, says that the quality and quantity of food you eat is only half of the weight loss equation. “Regardless of which diet you choose, when you eat is important too,” Dr. Sowemimo says. Starving during the day and ignoring hunger could lead to bingeing later, she says. Plus, Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, adds that the peaks and valleys of hunger throughout the day could make it more difficult to manage cravings. Eating regular meals at regular times could actually help normalize your metabolism, according to Dr. Bazilian.  
It could be beneficial for your health and your weight loss goals to drink more water and less alcohol. Dr. Bazilian says that alcohol doesn’t have to necessarily be avoided altogether. but you should think if and where alcohol fits in the context of your overall health goals. “Aside from calories, alcohol doesn’t offer much by way of nutrition, so it’s at minimum an important decision to have going into any weight-loss program for yourself whether, how often, what type and how much may or may not fit in your timeline and goals,” she says. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions sometimes making it more challenging to make healthy eating choices, according to Dr. Bazilian. And alcohol may negatively impact sleep which plays a role in healthy metabolism, she adds. 
Very low levels of thyroid hormone usually indicate an autoimmune reaction to the thyroid gland itself. This means you’ll have to take thyroid hormone supplements orally, usually the stable form T4 (Levaxin), which your doctor can prescribe for you. Your body will transform this into the active T3 hormone when necessary. The supplement dose should be adjusted so that you reach normal hormone levels (TSH, T3, T4) and sufficiently alleviate symptoms – though a few people feel best when keeping TSH slightly below normal.
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There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
Second, take a few photos of yourself to keep your motivation up. "Most of the people who come to me are doing it for a reason," he explains. "They're going on vacation, competing in a bodybuilding show, or maybe going to a reunion. I always have them strive for that goal. I take front, side, and back pictures of them at the beginning and have them post the photos on their mirror at home. I tell them, just keep looking at that picture and think of what you're going to look like in a few weeks."

First things first – planning. Before you start to prep your meals, you need a nice, solid plan. Coming up with a meal plan may sound overwhelming at first, but it’s not as bad as it may seem. Just take it one step at a time and start with one, simple meal you love and that you know is healthy, and then work your way up. Soon, you’ll be prepping all your meals! Watch out – it gets addicting!
The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
This eating plan promotes an average loss of one to two pounds per week. You’ll eat portion-controlled, pre-packaged meals and snacks; you can add your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you’ll slowly introduce regular meals with the help of weekly counseling sessions. Jenny Craig does have some scientific evidence to back it, and dieters say they like the personalization and support of weekly meetings with a counselor. On the downside, the program can get expensive, and it uses a lot of processed foods with long ingredient lists. This plan isn’t meant for children under 13 or people with food allergies. For a budget-friendly option, check out the best free meal planners for weight loss.
This drug is an injected variant of a satiety hormone called GLP-1. It slows down how quickly the stomach empties and tells the brain that you don’t need to eat yet – a great idea for losing weight. As a bonus this drug works fine while one is on the keto diet and it works even better with intermittent fasting – for a rapid weight loss with no hunger.

“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”


This plan was developed by nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, to allow vegetarians to have a burger every once in awhile. There is no specific weight-loss claim, but the guidelines recommend around 1,500 calories per day, so there’s a good chance you’ll lose weight. Recipes are available online and in Blatner’s book. Vegetarian diets have been linked with reduced risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart troubles, but you have to make smart food choices to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Learn about the healthy diet plan nutritionists recommend for weight loss.
Diet programs should not only be suited to a client’s health needs but also be attune with their budget. Aside from providing customizable menus, some diet programs also offer clients price-based menus. Some companies offer one-time diet plans as well as free trials. A money back guarantee is certainly a welcome for those who don’t find success with the diet program. Pricier diet programs don’t always translate to a successful and effective diet. The ultimate measure of an effective diet program is the client’s compliance with the recommended diet. 
Keeping a food journal could help you reach your weight loss goals. Best Health reports a recent study found participants who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. Colleen Cannon, a clinical psychologist in Canada who specializes in helping people deal with the emotional side of eating, says the act of writing down what we eat helps us become more aware.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
Before you start the meal plan, make a pot of the Veggie Soup. Make 2 servings of Overnight Oats, so they can soak in the fridge. It’s also super helpful to prep your veggie snacks—make 4 bags filled with baby carrots and sugar snap peas, and 3 bags filled with broccoli and cauliflower, for alternate days. And if you really want to get ahead, you could also grill the chicken breasts and cook the quinoa and brown rice in advance.
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