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Meal Plans 

Diet affects weight loss more than exercise, one nutritionist says. take off Pounds sensibly with a food diary and nutrition plan

The key to weight loss has more to do with what and how much you eat, not the intensity and frequency of workouts. According to Rebecca Lee, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist at East Jefferson General Hospital, losing weight and keeping it off comes 80 percent from diet and 20 percent from physical activity.

  "Building a healthy, personally structured nutrition plan is one of best things you can do for yourself," says Lee, who has dealt with many clients who felt frustrated because they weren't losing weight despite vigorous workouts. Not every diet works for every person. A well-balanced diet is the key to a healthy, in-shape body.

  To set up a personal nutrition plan, first calculate your body's basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the rate at which your body burns calories and is determined by the individual's height, weight, age, sex and activity level. Mayo Clinic provides an online calorie calculator at www.mayoclinic.com/health/calorie-calculator/NU00598.

  A nutrition plan may consist of an intake of around 1,800 calories, depending on the person's physical attributes and weight loss goals. A diet plan should include appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat and calories. Dieters record the caloric content of every meal. At the end of the day, the total number of calories should match appropriate daily calorie intakes.

  "Along with a nutrition plan, a food list is necessary," says Lee, who refers to a food list that divides foods into categories like meats, starches, condiments and fruits, and includes nutritional information. "The food list makes it simple to look up anything you may think about eating and decide what the proper portion is in order to comply with your nutrition plan."

  Following a food plan worked for Lee's client Charles "Chuck" Kelly III, who since last August has lost 40 pounds and reduced his blood sugar from diabetic to normal levels. "Most people aren't educated about eating — I wasn't," Kelly says. Lee taught Kelly about nutrition and helped him set weight loss goals. Kelly also recorded everything he ate for three months. "Keeping a food diary is one of the most important things you can do when dieting," Lee says.

  Kelly's new diet consisted of a daily 1,800-calorie intake divided into three small meals and three small snacks. Kelly followed his nutrition plan and looked up all foods in the food list before preparing his meals and snacks. He relied on lean protein snacks like low-fat cheese, egg whites, nuts, avocados and lean deli meats to stave off hunger.

  Kelly says one of the most important things he learned was how to lose the weight and keep it off. "Another key in my weight loss — as with anyone — is losing it slowly. I could lose 30 pounds in 30 days, but you'll never keep it off doing it that way. I learned that is not healthy."

  According to Lee, losing one or two pounds a week is usually the healthiest rate. Although people gravitate toward fad diets, any weight loss that ensues from these methods is likely to be temporary. By exercising daily and eating healthily, most people lose weight successfully. "It all depends on your body and what is right for you," Lee says.

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