4 crucial tips for managing your weight

The Doctors - | 11/26/2010, 6 a.m.

Almost 70% of adults in the USA are overweight or obese -- and many will try anything to shed pounds, from crazy fad diets to prescription meds. But just this past October, the Food and Drug Administration requested the weight-loss drug Meridia be pulled from pharmacy shelves because it raises the risk of heart attack and stroke, with little weight loss benefit. Studies show time and time again that the best way to get and stay slim is to eat right and exercise. Here are four more tips to help manage your weight:

Drink water. Middle-aged and older dieters who drank two cups of water before each meal dropped 15 1/2 pounds over 12 weeks, a new study found; non-water drinkers lost about 11. Water fills you up, so you eat less; plus, choosing water over sweetened, high-calorie drinks contributes to more weight loss. In older people specifically, it takes longer for the stomach to empty, researchers say; in younger people, water leaves the stomach faster, so drinking before a meal may not have the same effect.

Stay consistent. New research published in Nutrition & Metabolism showed that adults in their 20s and 30s who limited their physical activity and over-ate (specifically fast food) for four weeks not only gained weight, but they also held on to the added fat for years afterward -- even though they went back to their lower-calorie diet and more active routines. It shows a little overindulging can have long-lasting effects.

Get good sleep. Too little sleep may actually keep body fat in place, according to research from the University of Chicago. The small study showed dieters who slept 8.5 hours during one period and 5.5 during another lost about the same amount of weight (just under 7 pounds), but the composition was different: When they slept more, they took off body fat; when they slept less, they lost more muscle mass (which lowers metabolism). During less-sleep time, participants also felt hungrier and had higher levels of gherlin in their blood, an appetite-boosting hormone. Sleep experts say most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Log on to keep pounds off. The more you use a weight-management website, the more weight loss you maintain, a Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research study showed. When users logged on regularly for 2 1/2 years to record their weight or their diet, they maintained an average of 9 pounds from their original 19-pound loss. Those who used the site for 14 months kept only 5 pounds off; people who logged on even less often kept less off.