I’ve noticed some magical thinking among my gynecology patients lately. They are complaining about weight gain and asking me to give them something to “fix it.”  Many of them blame the extra pounds on suspected thyroid problems, birth control or menopause.  Certainly these are all common culprits of weight gain among women, however it is most often much simpler than that.

Patients consistently ask the slim and fit midwives in my practice about our “secret” weight loss tricks. 

There is no magic to maintaining a healthy weight or secret trick to lose weight.  The best and healthiest way to shed unwanted pounds is to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet. But in this age of instant gratification, diet pills or surgery seem like better and easier options than old-fashioned lifestyle changes. 

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Certainly most of my patients who struggle with their weight have tried various diets during their lives. They lose weight and then often regain the weight when they tire of eating restrictive diet food. Many are hesitant to exercise, claiming that they are embarrassed to go to a gym or that they’ll look silly.  And many women are just not sure where to start when it comes to exercise. 

The easiest advice I can give is to move more and consume less — though not necessarily less food, just less sugar, less fat and less processed food. I’m amazed at how many women drop pounds easily simply by giving up soda. I encourage them to try more fruits and vegetables, more whole grain foods and to eat smaller more frequent meals.  For those women who need additional support or advice, I recommend Weight Watchers or even seeing a dietician, which is sometimes covered by health insurance. 

As far as exercise, no gyms are needed to burn calories. Walking around the neighborhood, dancing around the house and going up and down the steps are all simple ways to get moving. Inexpensive exercise DVDs are available as well as online programs to guide beginners through weight training, yoga, kickboxing or pilates. The possibilities are endless with a little research and creativity. 

In addition to shedding pounds, there are other benefits to eating right and exercising. Chronic health conditions including hypertension and type 2 diabetes can be better managed or even eliminated with a healthy diet and weight loss.  Many women find their mental health, sleep and sex drive is improved with regular exercise. 

I will never claim that this method is easy, magical, or a quick fix.  However, healthy whole food eating and exercise is the only no-fail way I have found to lose or maintain a healthy weight over time.