The weight loss market is overflowing with diet aids that all claim to help you lose weight quickly. Shakes, snacks and pills marketed as appetite suppressants and weight loss programs litter the shelves of most stores today. Unfortunately, the desire to lose weight often causes people to forget that weight loss is most beneficial to the body when it is done in a safe and healthy manner. Weight loss is also more sustainable when it’s achieved with lifestyle changes over a long period of time.
EditEvaluating Your Eating and Lifestyle Habits
- Track your meals in a food journal. When starting a new diet or eating pattern, it can be helpful to journal your current eating and lifestyle habits so you’re aware of what changes you need to make. Note what foods and beverages you consume, plus the timing of your meals.
- Purchase a journal or download a journaling app on your smartphone. Track as many days as you can. Ideally, track weekdays as well as weekend days. Many people eat slightly different on weekends compared to a more structured work day.
- Go beyond just jotting down the foods you eat. Make notes about how often you eat out and any patterns you see arising. For example, on a day you work late, are you more likely to stop at a fast food restaurant instead of making dinner at home?
- Also note where you think you can improve or make better choices. For example, are you choosing the healthiest options possible for your meals or snacks? Do you eat a lot of frozen, processed foods or are you eating mostly home cooked meals?
- Measure your portion sizes. Overeating and indulging in larger portion sizes (even of healthy foods) can lead to excess calorie intake and weight gain. Track the portion sizes of your meals and snacks to get an idea if you should decrease or maintain your serving sizes.
- Decreasing portion sizes can be a simple way to cut a few calories from your day and aid in moderate weight loss.
- Compare your portion sizes throughout the day to the recommended standards. For example, one serving of fruit is 1/2 cup or one small whole fruit, one serving of vegetables is one cup, one serving of grains is 1 oz or 1/2 of a cup, one serving of lean protein is 3 oz and one serving of low-fat dairy is one cup (milk and yogurt) or 2 oz of cheese.
- A lot of grocery stores have pre-portioned tupperware to help you control your portions with less effort.
- Consider investing in measuring cups or a food scale to help you accurately record your portion sizes.
- Portion sizes might be an another item that you can add to your food journal.
- Count calories. Monitoring your total calories each day can also give you another perspective of your diet. Knowing how many calories you generally eat on an average day can give you clues to what you can cut out of your diet to help induce weight loss.
- Safe weight loss, or losing one to two pounds per week, requires you to cut out about 500 calories daily.
- Cutting out more than 500 calories daily or eating less than 1200 calories daily is not safe or healthy and may not result in weight loss long-term.
- While cutting and burning additional calories may seem like a good idea to lose weight faster, it can have very negative long-term health effects and can actually lead to long-term weight gain.
- Although weight loss and healthy eating go beyond calories, it’s important to be calorie aware — knowing whether or not you’re eating enough calories for your body and lifestyle.
- Burning additional calories through exercise is helpful but make sure that if you exercising, you don’t eat too little.
- Journal about cravings or emotions that trigger you to eat. About 75% of the time people overeat, it’s in response to emotions. It’s important to be aware of what emotions trigger you to eat and how they specifically affect your eating or lifestyle behaviors.
- Take notes about your food/mood connection. For example, you may notice on days you feel more stressed, you’re more likely to reach for a salty, high fat snack.
- Also consider the times of day or night when you have the hardest time avoiding junk food or mindless snacking. Is it late at night while you sit and watch TV? Do you crave the need for something when you are driving? Knowing what your weak points are will help you plan for ways to alter your eating habits.
- Choose a well-balanced diet plan. There are some commercial diets that are appropriate for safe and healthy weight loss. These might be beneficial as many programs offer a very detailed plan, recipes and support.
- Choose a diet plan that does not focus on eliminating large groups of foods or entire food groups.
- Look for programs that focus on monitoring portion sizes, eating a balanced diet and incorporating regular physical activity.
- Examples of programs that offer safe weight loss include: a diet based on a Mediterranean style of eating; the DASH diet (great for high blood pressure); a higher protein, moderate carbohydrate diet; or a diet that focuses on balanced meals and portion sizes.
- Meet with your doctor or registered dietitian. Speaking to a doctor or registered dietitian prior to starting any new diet regimen is a smart idea. They may be able to provide you with additional guidance or recommend alternatives that might be more appropriate for your health.
- Speak with your primary care doctor. She may refer you to a local dietitian for additional help.
- A registered dietitian is a nutrition expert that may give you a more effective diet for weight loss. He may be able to come up with a meal plan tailored to your lifestyle that will help induce weight loss. It’s also nice to visit your dietitian regularly to have some accountability through the weight loss process.
- Visit the EatRight website and click on the orange “Find an Expert” button on the top right to search for a dietitian in your area.
EditPlanning Meals for Weight Loss
- Write up a meal plan. Having a nutritionally balanced, portion-controlled/calorie-controlled meal plan is essential for weight loss. Create your own, use the help of your doctor or registered dietitian, or find books or diet plans online that you can follow.
- Take an hour or two of your free time and write up your ideas for all meals and snacks. This will take the guesswork out of daily decisions and provide you with a framework for healthy eating.
- When designing your own meal plans, make sure you include each food group daily and ensure you’re following appropriate portion sizes.
- Take into consideration the amount of quick meals that will be necessary for the week. Plan out ways to incorporate easy, nutritious meals into those days or healthy grab-and-go snacks. By planning in advance, you can help prevent impulse purchases of less-than-healthy foods.
- Have extra healthy snacks on you so that you are never stuck without healthy options. You never know when you will be stuck away from home, so preparedness is key.
- Incorporate meals that freeze well into your planning. Make twice as much as normal by doubling all of the ingredients that the recipe calls for. Freeze half for a future meal or break it down into single servings to be used as lunch meals.
- Stock your kitchen with healthy foods. Healthy eating and healthy cooking can be a lot easier if your kitchen is stocked with foods that will support your diet. Make time to go grocery shopping each week to stock up on a variety of your favorite healthy items.
- A well-stocked pantry can be a great tool for healthy eating. Most items found in your pantry will be shelf stable and easy to keep on hand over longer periods of time. Try keeping items like these for quick and healthy meals: canned beans, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, 100% whole grains (like quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta, or brown rice), nut butters, and low-calorie and low-sodium soups.
- Another very helpful area to have stocked is the freezer. Again, items in your freezer will keep longer. Try stocking up on items like: frozen vegetables (without sauces or seasonings), frozen fruit, frozen pre-cooked grains (like brown rice or quinoa), low-calorie frozen dinners (for busy nights), and frozen proteins (fish or chicken).
- Stock your refrigerator weekly with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy (like low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and lean proteins (chicken, fish, pork, or lean beef).
- If you’re busy, don’t have time or don’t like to cook, consider purchasing items that are pre-cooked or pre-prepared to cut down on cooking. Stock up on items like these for quick meals: pre-washed/pre-cut vegetables (like bagged lettuce or steam-in-the-bag green beans), pre-sliced apples, grilled chicken breast strips or cooked hard boiled eggs.
- Prepare new recipes. If healthy cooking is something that’s new to you or you need to freshen up your regular recipes, it’s helpful to find some new, healthy recipes to try. Expanding your recipe repertoire may help prevent you from getting into recipe ruts or getting bored with your diet.
- Try preparing one to two new recipes each week. You don’t have to overhaul your entire routine; trying a few new things each week can help you slowly add in some exciting new ideas.
- Purchase a cookbook or two tailored to healthy eating, weight loss or low-calorie meals.
- Check the Internet for easy altered recipes that will help improve your diet. You can find a variety sites that offer valuable information for healthy recipes and low-calories substitutes.
- Eat healthy snacks. Eating healthy snacks is an effective way to receive added nutrition throughout your day and can be beneficial in helping to lose weight.
- Snacking can be a gray area for weight loss. Really think about whether a snack is necessary before eating it. A low-calorie snack can be a good option before or after a work out or if you’re feeling very hungry and there’s more than two hours until your next meal. To keep your metabolism moving and keep yourself full, you should be eating every three to four hours. That might mean multiple small meals or three meals with snacks in between.
- Generally, snacks should fall around 100 – 200 calories (depending on your activity level). Including fruits, vegetables and lean protein help keep snacks calorie-controlled while still being nutritious.
- Healthy snacks can include: carrots and hummus, celery and peanut butter or greek yogurt with fruit.
- Consume indulgent meals/snacks in moderation. Enjoying some of your favorite, more indulgent items every once in awhile is an acceptable action even while losing weight. Just be sure you’re truly eating them every once in awhile.
- Cut out indulgent foods slowly. If you’re used to eating them on a regular basis, try eating them just once a week or once or twice times a month.
- If you’re planning on indulging, make sure to portion-control your food. This will keep calories limited.
- Counter act your higher calorie food with a longer workout session. You won’t burn off all the calories, but it can help you stay on track.
EditIncorporating Physical Activity for Weight Loss
- Perform regular aerobic exercise. Aim for 150 minutes or two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Incorporating regular aerobic exercise into your daily routine will support your weight loss.
- Aerobic activities can include exercises like: walking, jogging, swimming, biking or hiking.
- Exercise is a great support to weight loss, but it is only part of the weight loss picture. Exercise alone will not always cause weight loss. Instead, exercise best helps you maintain your weight loss long-term.
- If using cardio machines (like a treadmill or elliptical) be wary of the “calories burned” feature. Many times, these machines are highly inaccurate. Try to think of exercise as a weight loss support and not to cause weight loss.
- Incorporate strength training weekly. Weight lifting or resistance training is another important part of your exercise routine. It’s recommended to include 2 days of strength training each week.
- Strength training includes activities like: weight lifting, Pilates or isometric exercises like push-ups or crunches.
- Find a workout partner. Getting started with an exercise plan can be hard — especially if you’re doing it alone. Working out with a friend or partner can be a great motivator to keep you on track and showing up for your weekly sweat sessions.
- Ask friends, family members, or co-workers to get moving with you.
- Get a group of co-workers together to go for a quick lunch-time walk break.
- Ask a friend for a weekly “date” to catch up. Plan a walk or a gym session where you can chat and move at the same time.
- Try different types of exercise. Keep your exercise routine fun and exciting by engaging in a variety of different exercises. This can also help prevent over-training or over-using certain muscle groups.
- If exercising in a gym is not your thing, try a dance class or team sport instead. You will be more willing to stick to it if it is enjoyable for you.
- Try incorporating some outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking or biking.
- Keep in mind that exercise does not have to be rigorous in order to be effective. Take a stroll or ride a bike. Any movement is beneficial in helping with weight control and is necessary for muscle maintenance.
EditTracking Your Progress
- Weigh yourself weekly. It’s important to track your weight on any diet or weight loss plan. Regular weight check-ins will show you your progress over time and may help keep you motivated.
- It’s ideal to weigh yourself about once or twice a week. Weighing yourself daily won’t show you the big picture. Daily fluctuations in weight (either a gain or loss) are normal and might not be accurate compared to a weekly weigh in.
- Purchase a home scale so you have the right tools at home to keep yourself on track.
- Weekly weigh ins can also help give you insight into how effective or ineffective your new diet is for you.
- Regular weigh-ins have also been shown to help prevent weight-gain.
- Weigh yourself at the same time each week and in the same clothes (or nude).
- Write down your goals. Writing down goals can be helpful with any type of change, but is especially helpful with weight loss. Knowing your long-term goal can help keep you motivated and looking forward through your progress.
- Be specific with your goal. Make sure it’s timely, specific and realistic. Remember, large amounts of weight loss are not realistic and are most likely not safe or healthy.
- Set smaller goals before your long-term goals. For example, if you want to lose 25 pounds in five months, a smaller goal would be to lose five pounds within the first month.
- Set goals outside of your weight loss. Write goals down about things you’ll be able to do or stop doing as you lose weight. For example you may be able to walk a 5k without stopping!
- Reevaluate your progress. As you continue with your weight loss plan, it’s always a good idea to check in and reevaluate your progress. Monthly or bi-monthly check-ins can help you modify your diet, exercise or other behaviors to help continue your progress.
- If you notice your weight loss has slowed or stopped, take a step back and reevaluate your lifestyle. Maybe keep a food journal a couple of days or track how often you’re exercising. If you see areas where you’ve slipped up or gotten a little lax, try to get back on track.
EditAvoiding Unsafe and Unhealthy Diets
- Ask questions. When you’re researching different dieting plans, products or even talking to a doctor about diets, ask as many questions as you can. Being well informed will help you choose the best diet for you and the one that is the most safe. Reputable programs and their staff should be able to answer questions regarding safety, efficacy and cost. Ask questions like:
- Do I have to purchase special meals or supplements?
- What type of weight loss certifications or experience does the staff or founder/creator have?
- How much weight does the average person lose?
- Does the program include a part to help me maintain my weight loss?
- Avoid using shakes, diet pills, or other diet aids. They may temporarily help you lose weight but your goal is to begin a lifestyle change that incorporates healthy eating as a way of life.
- Many diet pills and other medications that are sold over the counter are not regulated by the FDA. Always check with your doctor before taking any over the counter medications or supplements.
- Remember, a diet can only help you drop your weight for as long as you maintain the plan. Once the diet stops, the weight will slowly sneak right back up on you if you haven’t developed the right habits along the way. This is why it’s important to focus on long-term healthy lifestyle changes.
- Stay away from cleanses or detoxification programs. Your body doesn’t need to be “cleansed” or “detoxed” — that’s the role of your kidneys and liver.
- Avoid diets that require you to fast for much of the day or drink “cleansing liquids.” The body needs a certain amount of energy to function properly. Healthy food is energy.
- Never starve yourself in an attempt to lose weight.
- Don’t give up. Half the battle is thinking you can do, it while the other half is actually doing it.
- Don’t shop when you are hungry. Have a healthy snack and a glass of water before heading to the grocery store.
- Find snacks that you love that are healthy, such as fresh fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat yogurt, or cottage cheese, and be sure to stock them in your pantry.
- Take your measurements once a month to judge your weight loss in inches as well as pounds.
- Add strength training to your exercise plan to build lean muscle. While aerobic exercise (like walking) helps burn calories, anaerobic (or strength-building) exercise can help boost your metabolism.
- Try a daily walk. It is a great exercise for weight loss. You can go at your own pace. If you walk with a friend it is mentally uplifting to chat and support each other.
- Drink lots of water: about 2 litres/day (approx. 64 oz). Drink a glass of water about 20 minutes before dinner to help you feel full.
- Avoid processed foods. Anything that comes in a package is usually full of fats, sugars and salts. Know what you’re eating in advance.
- Add one or two extra vegetables to your evening meal that you would usually not eat. Try new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients to keep your eating plan interesting and fun.
- Clear up left-overs before sitting down to avoid second helpings.
- Put your knife and fork down instead of loading it up while you chew. Eating more slowly allows your body to be in time with your brain so that by the time you “feel” full you haven’t already overeaten.
- Tell your family and friends that you’re trying to lose weight, they will support and encourage you.
- There is no safe way to lose weight fast (i.e. more than a pound or two per week). You should aim for lifestyle changes that support better eating and add some exercise that is suited to you personally, as recommended by your doctor.
- Always speak to your doctor prior to any weight loss plans to make sure your plan is safe and appropriate for you and any medical conditions that can be affected by a change in your diet.
- Lose Weight
- Lose Weight by Eating Slowly
- Lose Weight Fast
- Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Weeks
- Create a Weight Loss Plan That Works for You
- Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
EditSources and Citations
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