THE BIG QUESTION: How can you slim down and KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF FOR GOOD?
Researchers say losing just 5 to 10 percent of your excess body weight can make a big difference in your health, including lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk for diabetes. So where do you start? We here give you the following common-sense strategies to lead you on the way to permanent weight loss.
- Write it down. Writing down what you eat forces you to be aware of just how much you’re eating. Also, if you know you have to write down that piece of candy or pizza, you may not be so quick to eat it. Keeping a food journal may also cut down on mindless eating. With your journal, you can also keep track of how much you exercise. If this doesn’t seem to work, you can review your food diary with a dietitian.
- Know your risk factors. Check with your doctor to see if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Knowing where you are to start can also help you set realistic goals. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). This measurement can help you figure out how much you need to lose.
- Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in sugars. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, this will also reduce your risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than a few big ones. “The human body needs food about every three hours,” says esperts, one of them being Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “So you should have a snack every two to three hours to ward off hunger.” She recommends snacks that include a high-quality protein and carbohydrates, such as low-fat yogurt and fruit, a smoothie, or soya cheese and a pear. Other suggestions for snacks include graham crackers, low-fat popcorn, vegetables with low-fat dip, and whole-grain crackers.
- Exercise regularly doing something you enjoy. In order to burn more than you take in, you need to exercise. This will increase your metabolism so even when you’re at rest, you’ll be burning more calories. For exercise to help with weight loss, experts advise regular aerobic physical activity (such as walking, biking or swimming) for at least 20-30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. If you’re a beginner, you can start slowly. Ideally, Peeke says you should try to exercise 30-45 minutes, five days a week.
In particular, walking may be a good choice. Buy a pedometer and keep track of the number of steps you take each day. Once you see how much you walk, try adding 1,000 steps each day, with an eventual goal of 10,000 steps or more.
- Get and enlist support. Finding a support system is critical to long-term weight loss. Whether you join a group of weight watchers, work with a dietitian or maybe your closest family, it’s helpful to share your highs and lows with experts or others who can relate. These people can also be a source of new ideas and strategies and let you know that you’re not alone.See our section of supporting programs and methods that might be good for you:
- Eat your favorite foods (in moderation) whatever they may be. This will keep you from feeling deprived, which can lead to cravings. “Plan your indulgences into your schedule,” says Peeke. “Keep the portions down, savor, taste and enjoy it.”
- Watch your portion size. Look at nutrition brochures and look at the fat and calories you’re getting. If you are eating out and the portion is big, cut it in half right away and put it in a doggie bag or split the meal with a friend.
- Lose weight slowly (max a kg (1-2 pounds) per week). Slow weight loss is important. It will be easier to keep it off. Quick weight loss is more apt to come back on, leading to yo-yo dieting that can have a negative impact on your long-term health.
- Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes before your brain realizes it’s full. That means the amount of calories consumed before you begin to feel full can vary a great deal depending on how quickly you eat. So be sure to eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy it.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. There are several advantages to drinking plenty of water. When the body is not receiving adequate fluids, the kidneys compensate by conserving water. The result can be water retention — water weight you really don’t want. Drinking a lot of fluids makes the stomach feel fuller, thus decreasing the tendency to overeat.
- Keep healthy foods on hand. Examples include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans, nonfat dairy and fish or lean poultry. Also, plan meals in advance and make a shopping list so you’re eating more meals at home. It’s helpful to limit dining out if you’re trying to lose weight.
- Make health, not appearance, your weight management priority. Make sure your focus is in the right place — not on the pounds, but on health.
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Beware of these common stumbling blocks to long term weight loss:
Fad diets. Often, these diets promise to help you lose a lot of weight quickly, or tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet to lose A quick fix is not the answer. Instead, the best approach is to focus on making small lifestyle changes you can maintain.
Negative self-talk. Avoid negative thoughts and statements such as “I’m fat. I’ll never be able to lose weight.” Be positive. Affirm that you can change your lifestyle. Try not to feel guilty about eating certain foods. There are no good and bad foods — moderation is the key.
Emotional eating. Don’t eat as a way to cope with stress or other negative emotions. Food never solves the problem, and usually it just contributes to a cycle of guilt, low self-esteem and overeating.
– By Michelle Murray
Reprinted with permission of the University of Maryland Medical Center (www.umm.edu).