Stacey Frattinger, RD, CHFS, Certified Integrative Health Coach, currently resides in Sparks, NV. She owns a virtual health coaching and nutrition counseling practice, mainly focusing on one-on-one, individualized whole body wellness practices.
Walking your way to weight loss is the simple and straightforward premise behind The Step Diet. There is no need for counting of calories, carbohydrates, or fat grams with this plan. While it is promoted as somewhat of a weight loss plan, it is intended to serve as a compilation of simple ways to permanently change your eating and exercise patterns without rigid rules to follow. The premise of the plan is really rather basic: simply walk 10,000 steps a day, trim your portions by a quarter, and let weight loss occur gradually. You can start slowly, aiming for 2,000 steps each day, and work your way up to 10,000 steps at your own pace. Ultimately you are encouraged to “eat less, move more”. The basic principles of the plan include maintaining proper energy balance through what you eat and how many calories you burn, experiencing success with weight loss through small changes over time and focusing on increasing intentional movement, or physical activity. The plan reminds dieters to not expect or aim for instant success, and to always remember that weight maintenance is more important than weight loss, which helps avoid frustration with stalls.
The Step Diet is based upon the work of weight-loss experts Dr. James O. Hill and Dr. John C. Peters, co-founders of America on the Move™ (also known as AOM). AOM is on a mission is to improve the health and quality of life for all individuals through the promotion of healthful eating and active living across one’s life span. Ranked among the top 10 diets to follow in 2008 by CNN, the Step Diet was devised by a group of weight-control experts from the University of Colorado, later being published as a book written by Hill and Peters, along with Bonnie T. Jortberg, MS, RD and Pamela Peeke MD. The book, “The Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories to Lose Weight and Keep It off Forever,” is still in publication today. Intended to serve as a motivational walking program that helps the overweight population lose weight, and then allow for lifelong weight maintenance, this program incorporates a strong behavioral component to allow for weight loss.
If you are looking to simply cut back a bit on what you eat, and are open to simple suggestions to help you incorporate more physical activity, compliance will not be an issue. The creators of the plan have provided suggestions for how to incorporate healthier meals into your day, possibly using a food diary to help you stay mindful, but there are no hard-core rules to follow. The greatest difficulty may be maintaining a step count or average of 10,000 steps daily.
Other than a good pair of walking shoes and an inexpensive pedometer, you don’t need to buy any special equipment or alter your grocery budget. There are no recipes or meal plans to follow, so you can customize the diet to fit your budget. If anything, you may save yourself a bit of money by cutting all of your portions down by 25% with each meal or snack.
Ultimately, the time you invest in the Step Diet is up to you. If your goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily, and you get in a lengthy morning walk, the time you will have to invest in movement the rest of the day is minimal. If you have little structured time to devote to intentional walking, however, you will find yourself getting in short bouts of movement more often. Your walks don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be strenuous, just done often enough to get you to your long-term goal of 10,000 steps daily.
There have been no reports of safety concerns associated with the Steps Diet. Because physical activity is a significant component of the plan, clearance from a physician is recommended if you have health concerns. During excessive hot or cold temperatures, be sure to take special precautions n to ensure you are properly dressed for walking.
Studies have in fact shown that increasing physical activity by 2000 steps per day could help prevent the average yearly weight gain increase of 1-2 pounds seen in the US population; however, the weight loss component of this program has been debated among health professionals. More specifically, the “calories in, calories out” model is highly debated. Some experts actually feel that the recommendation to “eat less and exercise more” is actually making our society fatter.
Benefits: Following the Steps Diet can lead to improvements in cardiovascular health, mobility, mood, or maybe even better sleep quality. Because walking is free, exceedingly accessible, and requires no special planning, preparation or gear, you can follow this program when at home, on the road for work, or traveling for pleasure.
Downsides: If you start walking through encouragement of the Steps diet because you are looking to lose weight, you may find yourself getting easily discouraged with a lack of results. In addition, this plan is not for people who are looking for specific nutritional advice or education.
The Bottom Line: For individuals who have never really had to diet before, there is little doubt that a bit of a cut in calories combined with a steady increase in movement and physical activity can lead to a safe, healthy rate of weight loss. With this doable, concrete approach to creating a naturally active lifestyle, consistency will be the key to watching your hours spent walking pay off in pounds lost according to the scale.