Whether it’s the New Year’s resolution, an old shirt or blouse that doesn’t quite fit anymore or just catching a glimpse of yourself in a reflection from a mirror or window; perhaps today is the day you’ve decided to lose weight. Some people think the best way to lose weight is to start exercising. If you’ve never exercised before, initially the pounds will melt off.
But for most people it’s going to also take a little work at the dinner table. There have been numerous studies to show that it really takes both exercise and healthy eating to shed pounds and to make the weight loss permanent. Here are my recommendations on how to lose weight and keep it off:
1.) A little honesty goes a long way. Take an honest look at your eating habits. Do you have food temptations that are hard to resist? Perhaps it’s fried food or sugary foods, soft drinks or just plain old junk food. Or maybe you just don’t have time to cook healthy meals. Or maybe you have some bad eating habits caused by boredom, anxiety, nervousness, depression or joy? If people are honest with themselves, most people find its multiple categories that are truly the culprit. A good first step, once you’ve identified the culprit, is to eliminate some of the root causes. If you are eating out of stress or other emotions, try to find other outlets to soothe your emotions; perhaps call a friend, read a book, or go to a movie. If junk food is your downfall, try not to have those temptations in the house.
2.) It’s time to “shake it, shake it, shake it”. Cutting calories alone are not the key to permanent weight loss. Most experts agree, permanent weight loss is attained through a combination of healthy eating and moderate exercise. Regular moderate exercise is the most effective way, when combined with good eating, to make weight loss permanent. Most people find developing an exercise routine that you can repeat three or four times a week is a good base. In addition to your base exercise, you will want to develop good habits of incorporating more activity into your life wherever you can. Perhaps take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk to the corner store, or when shopping – park further away from the store than you normally do.
3.) Expect the unexpected. Everyone is going to find themselves in situations where they find it tough to make healthy choices occasionally. Itemize some of these situations. Now let’s plan on ways to avoid them. Every temptation probably has a healthy alternative if you can plan in advance. As an example, one of my temptations is late night snacking. So what I’ve done is to replace unhealthy snacks in the fridge, with healthier choices. My refrigerator is packed with washed and cut vegetables and fruit. I have dry almonds, and most of the unhealthy snacks are no longer in the house an easy to grab at a moment’s notice.
4.) Fill ‘er up. There are plenty of healthy, filling, low-calorie foods that you can make as the main part of your meal. I like to have a glass of water about 30 minutes before meal time. Then when it’s time to fill my plate, at every meal I tried to fill half my plate with a combination of fruits, vegetables and salads. Then on the other half of the plate I divide between whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. They should keep you feeling fuller longer while keeping the caloric intake low.
5.) Watch what you drink. And I’m not just talking about adult beverages here. Stick to calorie free beverages. Consider water, hot tea, or coffee without sugar and cream. Things you should avoid include soda (both sugar or sugar-free), hot chocolate, her some of those fancy drinks at the coffee shop with lots of cream and sugar. If you absolutely, positively, have to have one of those other drinks, choose a smaller size, and ask for the skinny version (fat-free) and skip the whip cream and extra syrups.
6.) Baby steps! Some people think the best way to lose weight is to go on a “quick result, fast diet” or fade diet plan for motivation. But that is wrong! A diet is simply an interruption of an eating habit learned over a lifetime. No matter if the interruption is – one week – one month – one year… at the end of that diet your eating habits that were learned over your lifetime return. Along with returning to your old habits, the weight normally returns and this time it brings lots of friends. A more effective method is to take baby steps through substitution. Your goal is to make slowly change your eating and exercise plans into something you can sustain for life.
7.) Don’t skip meals. Eating three meals each day keeps your metabolism in gear. In other words it keeps you burning calories and keeps you feeling full. If you eat fuller than three sensible meals a day, you’re likely to go overboard and eat everything in sight at your first opportunity.
Sample sensible calorie intake:
Woman: 300 – 500 calories per meal
Men: 400 – 600 calories per meal
Woman/Men: 100 – 200 calorie snacks
8.) Track your success. Studies show that people that track of both calories they consume and the weight they have lost keep it off at a higher rate than people that do not. And there are many good reasons. Tracking your weight daily is motivational, and counting calories causes you to think about the portions. And as you track your exercise goals, you start to build a habit that will last a life time. Remember, a sensible approach is best.
9.) There’s more to this than just your weight. Everybody knows muscle weighs more than fat. So if you’re losing weight and gaining muscle through exercise, your weight may not be the best indicator of your success. Think about how your clothes fit? Are people giving you compliments on how healthy you look? Has your blood pressure improved? It’s all about getting healthy – not just what the scale says.
10.) Don’t try to be perfect. Everyone is tempted to eat a little more than they should, or an unhealthy food occasionally. That’s okay. Try not to feel guilty or think that you can’t eat healthy. It’s okay to indulge occasionally. Keep in mind one small slice of pizza or small dish of ice cream will not doom your diet. Try to work in an occasional “reward” into your weight management plan. It will eliminate some of the guilt factor and can be motivational. For a weight loss program to work long term, you never want to feel deprived. Remember, “Slow and Steady wins the race”.
A great weight management program doesn’t just happen. It takes plenty of time, effort, planning, and practice over time to form new lifelong healthy eating habits.
But the key is to start… Start today.