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Weight-Loss Tips From the Experts
lose-weight-measuring-tapeWe asked five health, fitness and nutrition experts some common weight-loss questions. Here are their answers, with tips on how to lose weight quickly, safely and long-term.

1. Does drinking water before a meal help with weight loss?

Not as much as we originally thought. Current research shows that high-water foods, like fruits and vegetables, may be better.

Weight-loss tip: Begin a meal with a large salad, tomato- or broth-based soup containing vegetables, or crudité with hummus. These foods are packed with water and are nutrient-dense. Besides all the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (substances that may help ward off cancer), fruits and vegetables provide fiber, which takes longer to digest. That means you can stay fuller longer and eat less overall.

What time at night should I stop eating to lose weight?

Even though Cinderella's carriage turned into a pumpkin at midnight, you needn't concern yourself with any specific time limit. Food doesn't turn to fat after 7 p.m. If you're truly hungry, eat.

Weight-loss tip: As with any other time of day, exercise caution with temptation foods—anything high-fat and high-calorie. Select a bowl of melon, a handful of dried plums, or yogurt with a sprinkling of your favorite high-fiber cereal.

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newsletter-graphic3. Are there any safe diet pills?
No medication comes without risk. And weight loss comes only with hard work. That said, if you’re substantially overweight, there are some prescription diet pills that might make your hard work a bit easier.

Weight-loss tips: Discuss your options with your health-care provider, who can help you evaluate the risks and benefits. (Some weight-loss medications can cause an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, gas or frequent oily stools.) As far as so-called “natural” diet pills go, beware. The FDA doesn’t regulate them like they do other medications. They may or may not contain the ingredients they claim to, and we may not know all the potential safety risks they could pose.

4. What’s the best workout to lose weight fast?

Try aerobic exercise five times a week for at least 45 minutes. This will burn stored fat (starting about 20 minutes into your workout). Combine it with weight training at least twice a week to build muscle, thus increasing your metabolism.

5. What type of exercise burns the most calories?

Weight-loss tip: High-intensity activities that get your heart rate up and keep it there burn the most calories. Be careful, though, because strenuous activities make you more prone to injury.

6. Will I burn more calories if I walk or run a mile?

According to physics, moving a specific mass over a given distance requires the same amount of energy, regardless of speed. This seems to suggest that you will burn the same calories whether you walk or run a mile. However, running is more than just fast walking. It’s a wholly different type of movement.

In 2004, thwarting popular belief, a small study found that over a given distance, running burned more calories than walking. However, this in no way reduces the potential benefit of walking. When I counsel my patients on exercise, I almost never recommend running, especially if they are older and haven’t run before.

Weight-loss tip: I usually recommend walking at a brisk pace. It’s safer for my patients and easier to do.

7. Which is the best time to work out: morning or night?

There really is no magic time of day to work out. But studies have shown that people who exercise in the morning are much more likely to stick with a routine. This may partly be because there are fewer distractions then. Lots can happen to keep people from putting in the time later (fatigue, evening commitments, unfinished work that has to be brought home, family pressures). Exercise can also give you a boost of energy—a great thing for the morning. At the same time, many people find that exercising at night does not give them insomnia.

Weight-loss tip: All things considered, the best time to work out is the time that works best for you.

8. How skinny is too skinny? Are those stick-thin actresses healthy?

One way to determine skinniness—or fatness—is by measuring body mass index: weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of height (in meters). For adults, underweight is less than 18.5. In children, normal BMI varies with age. Many models and actresses are indeed unhealthily underweight. For example, a woman who is 5’10” and weighs 115 pounds has a BMI of 16.5.


Rita Beckford, M.D., board-certified family doctor; host, fitness and weight-loss DVD Home With Dr. B; certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, spokesperson, American Council on Exercise.

Eva F. Briggs, M.D., board-certified family physician in Marcellus, N.Y.

Kevin O. Hwang, M.D., board-certified internist; instructor, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

D. Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian, One Source Nutrition, Norwalk, Conn.; spokesperson, American Dietetic Association.

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., registered dietitian, National Clinical Research-Norfolk, in Virginia; consultant to the food industry, Jill Weisenberger Health Communications LLC.



Last updated and/or approved: December 2010.
Original tips appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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