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Reflections on nutrition and weight loss: Finding the weight loss method that works for you

Dietitians Explain Why You Shouldn’t Praise Someone’s Weight Loss
Posted at 11:10 AM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 13:42:02-05

Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from a post that first appeared on the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s web page. You can read the full article here.

At this point, those who resolved to lose weight in 2023 are either trending in the right direction, discouraged, or they’ve given up.

If you fall in the latter two categories, maybe it’s time to try a different approach.

Though the common wisdom on weight loss is that one simply needs to increase exercise and reduce food consumption, the formula is rarely that simple – particularly if you are older or if you’ve struggled with health issues. Because no two people are the same, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for losing weight.

To provide food for thought on meeting your fitness resolutions for 2023 and beyond, we asked some faculty and staff from the University of Colorado College of Nursing to share insights on what has worked for them, and what might work for you.

Kim Paxton, DNP, APRN: “There is no diet”

As the specialty director of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program at CU College of Nursing, Kim Paxton’s academic passion lies in translating theoretical research of health promotion into practice.

“I tell my students never to use the word ‘diet’ in class,” she says. “Because there is no diet: It’s all about the balancing of nutrition. When you look at the balance of nutrition, it’s not about calories, it’s about the macros.”

What are macros? The term is short for macronutrient.

“Macros are fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and most individuals don’t know how to balance them properly,” Paxton says.

In general, a macro-based nutritional regimen emphasizes decreasing carbs, and increasing protein and fats.

Paxton has found a macro-based app called RP (for Renaissance Periodization) to be effective in helping her (and members of her family) lose weight. She also says any kind of exercise helps – whether it involves aerobics, strength training or simply taking a walk. Paxton herself invested in the Peloton app and is working with an exercise physiologist to stay in shape.

Overall, Paxton suggests that people be easy on themselves while changing their exercise and nutrition habits.

“Don’t try to change everything in January because it’s not going to happen,” she says. “Give yourself permission to fail. Weight loss is the hardest thing we do as humans. It is also the element that we beat ourselves up for again and again.”

Kathy Jankowski, PhD: “Exercise to maintain muscle”

Even though she is a fitness buff who believes that exercise is important, CU Nursing Professor Kathy Jankowski, PhD, maintains that exercise alone is not a good strategy for weight loss – particularly among older adults.

“As a lifelong exerciser, I wanted to know more about the science of exercise,” she says. “The benefits of exercise are way broader than weight loss, but exercise alone is not an effective strategy for weight loss.”

For older adults, it’s important to maintain or build muscle mass and muscle strength.

“What’s important is that everybody move around and avoid a sedentary lifestyle – even if it’s something very simple such as standing up during commercials,” she says. “The most important step in exercise is the step out the front door. The sky is the limit after that. People will be surprised by how much improvement they’ll see with modest increases in physical activity.”

Jankowski also stresses a relatively low-fat diet with sufficient high-quality protein as part of an effective plan.

Jennifer Smith: “If it’s my birthday, I’m going to eat birthday cake”

As the health care manager for the Office of Clinical and Community Affairs and the longest-standing staff member at CU Nursing, Jennifer Smith has experienced many ups and downs over the last 16 years. During her 20s, she lost 68 pounds on the Weight Watchers plan, but gained it back, and lost it again.

Considering her family history and before she could become a diabetic, Smith decided to get in better shape. Smith strengthened her resolve after learning of a neighbor who lost 75 pounds using a program called OPTAVIA. Designed by a board-certified critical care physician, OPTAVIA is a low-calorie, reduced-carb program which combines packaged foods, homemade meals, personalized coaching, and information resources to encourage weight loss.

“I’m making better choices [nutritionally], but if it’s my birthday, I’m going eat birthday cake and I’m going to enjoy it because I want to be able to love and live life too,” she says.

Mona Pearl Treyball, PhD, RN: “I feel better”

From a nursing perspective, Mona Pearl Treyball believes that individuals are the best authorities on their own health.

The Specialty Director of the Veteran and Military Health Care Program, Treyball had three cancers and treatments over the years, which altered her metabolism and weight.

“I gained a lot of extra weight steadily over the last 10 years – maybe a half pound a month, but it added up to about 50 pounds,” she says. “As I got older, I tried different things: I tried eating more consciously and mindfully; I participated in the MOVE program, which is the VA’s weight management program. It was helpful and interesting, but it didn’t really help me to lose weight to be honest.”

Working with her doctor, Treyball also tried different medications for weight loss. She was eventually prescribed Ozempic, which is generally used to treat diabetes but gaining popularity as a weight-loss drug. In just six months, Treyball lost 50 pounds on Ozempic.

“I not only look better, but I feel better,” she says. “My brain feels more sharp, and because I do so much work with my brain, I really notice it.”

Read the full article on the University of Colorado College of Nursing website.