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Sustainable Weight Loss – It’s About Small Steps

By Karen Jerome-Zapadka, M.D.

Published March 1, 2018


There’s no magic pill for long-term sustainable weight loss. Only by learning new ways to think about food, challenging your body through increased physical activity and learning new behaviors, will you find success. Your long-term commitment is THE foundation to reaching and maintaining your weight loss goal.

Fad diets may result in some quick and immediate weight loss, but as soon as you go back to your usual eating patterns, the weight usually returns. Committing to exercise routines that are too aggressive for your current level of physical activity often is short-lived, because “it’s just too hard!”

Before even attempting any type of weight loss, I work with you to make sure you’re emotionally ready to make the changes necessary to move toward better health. This process is called “motivational interviewing,” and may take weeks, months or even longer.

I teach you that good health is no accident, and it’s within your control! Just four behaviors – healthy nutrition, maintaining an acceptable body weight, not smoking, and 30 minutes of physical activity every day – can prevent nearly 80% of common illnesses and reduce the risk of many cancers.

Many patients don’t understand how many calories they’re consuming. I find it helpful for them to keep a journal for a few weeks to better assess the problem areas that led to weight gain.

Likewise, many patients don’t understand how many calories they need per day. A simple online calculator – the Mifflen-St. Jeor calculator – can tell you how many calories you need. For weight loss, it’s recommended to cut back by 500 calories per day.

Self-monitoring your daily intake is the other concept that’s essential to understand – NUTRITION IS MEDICINE. Even without weight loss, multiple studies have shown that a Mediterranean style of eating can reduce risks for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia, to name a few. Often, our first step is to begin weaning off soda, sugar, and packaged snack foods as you transition to real food. We also assure adequate protein intake, as protein requirements are higher during active weight loss.

Increasing physical activity is important, especially for weight maintenance. Resistance training with weights/bands is one of the most important aspects of weight management, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming article.

The VGA Center for Obesity Medicine at Valley Gastroenterology Associates treats obesity and associated medical problems, primarily through lifestyle management. Our multi-disciplinary approach includes attention to the four cornerstones of weight management: medical, nutritional, behavioral, and physical. 

I lead our team of specialists that includes a Master’s-level registered dietitian, a physician’s assistant and a medical assistant. There is no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to weight management. Our team assesses your health as well as any underlying medical conditions and recommends a plan that is customized for you.


Dr. Karen Jerome-Zapadka, M.D. is board-certified in gastroenterology and obesity medicine. She practices at Valley Gastroenterology Associates in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.