Dear Dr. Sangani,

I read about your weight measurement criteria a couple weeks ago. I’m overweight, and I wanted to get some advice on what is a good way to remember on how one should maintain their weight. How can someone like me manage weight well? – Overweight

Dear Overweight,

When I described the weight measurement criteria, the response was unbelievable.  Everywhere I went, people told me how surprised they were to find out that they needed to lose weight. That was followed with an obvious question:

Q: What do you think is the ideal way to lose weight?
A: The science of weight loss or gain is plain math. If you know anything about how bank account management works, the weight management plan works the same way. If you deposit more money than you withdraw, then the account becomes big. If you withdraw more money than you deposit, then the account becomes thin. Replace the word “money” with “calories”, and you should be able to understand how one can gain weight or lose weight. This is all one needs to know for a better weight management program. One does not need a 1,000-page book or a $1,000 program to understand weight management. In general, if you eat more calories than you expend, then you gain weight. If you expend more calories than you eat, then you lose weight. Exercise is the ideal way to burn calories and lose weight.

Dr. Ralph Lach of Columbus, Ohio was my mentor and taught me everything I know in cardiology. He loved to talk about weight management. He used to say that there are only two ways to lose weight and if anybody tells you any different, he is either lying or trying to make a buck off you. I find his statement quite strong but still true most of the time. Just as location is the key in real estate, Lach stresses exercise is the key in weight management. Lach’s cardinal rule in weight loss is: exercise, exercise, exercise.

My favorites are treadmill, bicycle, rope-jumping, and swimming. Swimming is the most low-impact aerobic exercise in existence. Even people with severe arthritis can walk in the swimming pool against the resistance of water. Lach’s second rule is learning to stay hungry. Mind you, he did not say eat less. He clearly mentions that you should constantly have the desire to eat or maintain a constant state of hunger.

Here are a few other pointers:

  • Be realistic. If you did not gain 50 pounds in one year, then you should not expect to lose 50 pounds in one year, either. Setting a goal of losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week is a realistic way to approach the mammoth problem.
  • Avoid foods high in calories and fat. Please read the nutrition labels on products.
  • Maintain a food diary. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. This brings self-discipline and a method to document your program.
  • Do not deny a real craving. Once in a while, it is acceptable eat the food you crave. Then try to cut back elsewhere. However this has to happen in the same day.
  • Do not think “fat free” means “calorie free.”
  • Walk instead of driving. Choose stairs instead of using elevators.
  • Use a support group if available.