Plot your own route to weight loss

Plot your own route to weight loss, doctor says, Once 326 pounds, she offers sound advice in new book

Obesity specialist Doctor Ali Zentner, who lost over 170 pounds and recently released her book "The Weight Loss Prescription," poses for a photo at Extreme Fitness in Toronto.

Diet Guide for Health:

If you want to drive Ali Zentner crazy, say "they say" to her when discussing diet and weight loss.
"They say drink eight glasses of water, they say stay away from carbs, they say watch the gluten. First of all, who are 'they' and where is the science to prove it all?" the gregarious obesity expert told me in a recent conversation.

"It's this one-size-fits-all phenomenon that really bothers me."
Zentner, from Vancouver, knows a thing or two about weight loss.
She practises internal medicine and is a specialist in cardiac risk management, and she is an obesity expert who has helped thousands of obese and overweight patients achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Something that perhaps gives her more street credibility, though, is that she once weighed 326 pounds.

She has lived it.
And she made the changes necessary to live a healthier life.
Zentner has written a book, The Weight-Loss Prescription: A Doctor's Plan for Permanent Weight Reduction and Better Health for Life, published by Penguin Books. Part personal story, part science, part stories from some of her patients, it really is a must-read for anyone who struggles with weight.

There are a lot of books about weight loss and lifestyle change, and maybe you have found one that works. Somehow Zentner's approach, which touches on the physical and emotional aspects of being overweight, and the practical advice she provides, makes her book the best I have ever read on the subject.
Zentner told me she wrote it more from a doctor's perspective than her personal journey. "I'll argue that its science, instruction and five per cent my own story."

Obesity is an illness, she said. "Cancer gets respect, but obesity doesn't."
There is so much finger pointing when it comes to weight loss, she said.
"There is a serious lack of appreciation in mainstream society on how hard it is to lose weight," she added. "People are told it's about lifestyle change, to find a new way of doing things, but how do you go about that, really?"
Zentner was one of those people who struggled. She remembers seeing her first nutritionist (one of many) at the age of 9.

Diet Guide for Health:
 Her whole life has been about dieting. It had been about deprivation and following one diet or another, she writes in the book.
"Diets don't work. By their nature, they are only for a fixed period of time. Diets offer a beginning, middle and an end."

Until the day she stopped all of it.
As she writes in the book, she didn't wake up and say today is the day, as she had done many times before. But she said she realized she had a feeling that she could do something about it. "I began to spend my time learning all I could about the physiology of obesity and nutrition. In medicine, we learn from each patient because each patient teaches us something new about a disease. I was my first obesity patient."
Zentner writes that "obesity implies a host of judgments against one's character and personality."

It's far more than that.
There's internal wiring and genetics at work, she said. "The brain of an obese person really is different."
In her book, she outlines different personality types which are, in essence, how we eat.
Are we emotional eaters? Do we drink our calories? Fast food junkie? All or nothing dieter (me!)? Portion distortion (me as well!)?

Sometimes, we fall in to a few categories.
But what makes her book different is that she gives us outlines about how to map out our own route to change.

"We all have to navigate our own path, my book just helps with directions!" she told me with a laugh.
And we can learn by our mistakes.
"We need to hear the positive voice, any healthy change we make is a good one," she explained.
"And changing habits, some of which we have done over a lifetime, is going to take a concerted effort - and time."

Tenacity is important. Giving up in not an option.
As she writes in the book, "I want you to celebrate your discovery of the imperfection in your behaviour. Once you know where the errors are, you can use them to create a blueprint for the changes you want to make."

Diet Guide for Health:
 Zentner certainly has made the changes.
She has gone from being an obese woman sitting on the sofa eating a pot of macaroni and cheese to one who cycles to work every day and runs marathons.
She's proof we can rewire our brains.

We just have to set about creating a new, healthier set of positive rules regarding our relationship with food.
And truly, this book helps us do just that.



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