Eating Your Way to a Healthy Weight with the DASH Diet

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was formulated to provide a structure for healthy eating, not as a weight-loss program. However, because it can be easily adapted to one’s personal calorie goal and is steeped in good nutrition, it works for weight loss.

Losing weight

Broken down to its simplest elements, losing weight is a matter of burning up more calories than you take in. Food brings calories in, and activity burns them up. The number of calories your body uses each day to maintain your current weight (before adding in exercise) is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

That’s all well and good, but how do you know how many calories you really need? To get a rough idea of your number, simply multiply your weight in pounds by 10. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you multiply 150 by 10 to get a BMR of 1,500 calories. Anything over 1,500 calories needs to be either burned up with exercise or stored as fat.

Although your genetics may have a small effect on your BMR, your gender, age, and muscle mass are more important. This quickie calculation doesn’t include that information, so if you want to get more precise, schedule a visit with your dietitian to determine your daily caloric needs.

After you’re armed with your BMR, it’s time to start tracking your calories. If you’re serious about losing weight, it’s a good idea to measure and record everything. After a while you may be able to eyeball it, but research shows that writing it down leads to more success. Also, most people underestimate the amount they eat and overestimate the number of calories they burn.

After you see how your numbers line up, then you can set goals to make changes that support weight loss.

DASH is easily adaptable to a weight-loss plan because it includes lots of volume with fiber, is balanced for protein, limits junk, and is moderately low in fat.

The genius of DASH is that your food can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. It’s accessible to just about anyone, and although it wasn’t designed or tested for vegetarians or those with dairy intolerance, you can easily modify it to suit your needs.

Maintaining a healthy weight

So you’ve lost some pounds, and now your weight is just where you want it. Congratulations! You deserve to feel proud of yourself, but now’s not the time to give up your vigilance. To maintain your weight loss, you can’t just go back to your old habits. That’s why true, lasting weight loss is dependent on lifestyle changes.

DASH can help you maintain your ideal weight by giving you a healthy structure to work with that won’t leave you feeling hungry or deprived. You can enjoy a treat every now and then and indulge in a special meal as long as you stay true to the healthy eating plan that helped you get to your goal.

Weigh yourself regularly, at least once a week, to catch yourself if you start to slip. Do this not only while you’re on a weight loss plan but also as you maintain your new healthy weight. After you achieve your goal weight, you may just need to check in a few times a month.