Losing weight can be difficult for all of us, even if you are a doctor who specializes in internal medicine like me. The problem is the food that sticks to us in a bad way tastes so good, while the exercise we need to keep the pounds off can seem so difficult. The result is we often consume more calories than we burn, leading to expanding waistlines and worse.

Many of my patients struggle with persistent weight gain, and they're not alone. I've learned that having a goal makes the process a tad easier. Mine was the Forbidden Journey ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando. For several years after it opened in 2010, I wasn't allowed on the ride because I was too heavy.

About a year ago, I decided to get serious. So I changed my diet, restricting myself to no more than 2,000 calories a day. It was hard giving up fried foods and donuts. But I stayed away from sweets and simple carbohydrates like bread and concentrated on adding lean protein, such as chicken, fish and egg whites. I also ate more fruits and vegetables and went easy on the salad dressing.

As a general rule, if you burn 500 more calories than you eat every day for a week, you should lose about 1-2pounds. Minimizing starches, added sugars and animal fat from meat and dairy foods is a step in the right direction. Of course, you should talk with your doctor before beginning a diet or exercise routine

The good news is that these choices get easier over time, as you build and maintain healthy habits. I started running one mile a day and lifting weights. Getting back into regular exercise tested my dedication at first, but I soon found myself dreading it less and eventually looked forward to it. I resolved that I would get to the gym or hit the road after work each night, even when I was exhausted.

The pounds came off slowly - a few each week, which is the way a diet should work. You don't want a quick, dramatic weight loss, because that's hard on your body and makes it more likely you will fall off the diet and gain all the pounds back.

Last fall, after dropping 64 pounds, I went to the tourist attraction where I had been disappointed so many times before. They let me on! What a ride! What an experience!

Even better than soaring on the Forbidden Journey is the way I feel now. I am more energetic, almost like a new person. I'm convinced I will live longer, too. And I owe it all to Harry Potter.

Dr. Nauman Zaffar is an internal medicine physician who is credentialed at Poinciana Medical Center. For more information about Dr. Zaffar, search keyword "Zaffar" on PoincianaMedicalCenter.com's "Find a Doctor" page, or call 1.888.253.8117.

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