Obesity has reached epidemic status in America, with two out of three adults considered overweight or obese. Being overweight can negatively affect one’s health by increasing the risk of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, MS and certain cancers. Additionally, the average annual medical costs for obese individuals are nearly $1,500 more than for individuals of a healthy weight. Considering the health and financial impact of weight issues, many people acknowledge the need to lose weight, yet they struggle with the follow through. Here are some tips to successfully lose weight and keep it off for the long haul.
Don’t drink your calories
Many people forget to consider their drinking habits when attempting to lose weight. Beverages may not appear to have much substance, but they can contribute enough calories to single-handedly break an otherwise effective diet. Alcohol, soda and energy drinks can be especially problematic due to their high amount of calories and relatively low nutritional content. The average American drinks 1.5 cans of soda a day, adding more than 240 empty calories to their diet. Studies have linked regular soft drink consumption with an increased risk of obesity, certain cancers and even rheumatoid arthritis. While researchers still don’t know if these links are causal, it is still a good idea to replace your sugary beverages with healthier choices like tea or water.
Regular exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, especially if you are trying to lose weight and keep the weight off. Most everyone can benefit from some type of exercise, but it is important to find an activity that is enjoyable (or at least tolerable) and that you can turn into a regular habit. Getting just 30 minutes of physical activity four or five days a week can help improve your heart health, lower the risk of depression, reduce pain associated with arthritis, and even decrease the risk of developing certain cancers. If weight loss is your main goal, consider focusing on a cardiovascular routine like running or swimming, as these have been shown to burn more calories than lifting weights alone. Be sure to consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine.
Keep a food diary
When you are trying to better manage your money, you start by creating a budget to track the cash flow and discover where money is falling through the cracks. Keeping a food diary can be similar to a budget. You may already know what your major “expenses” are (rent/mortgage for a budget and your three daily meals for diet), but you might not know as much about the small costs. That afternoon snack could be adding a couple hundred calories to your diet! Maintaining a food diary might not be the most fun thing to do, but it can help you gain some real insight into your dietary habits and highlight where you are having the most problems.
Don’t eat while distracted
The average American consumes an estimated 20-25 percent of daily energy in front of a screen. Unfortunately, research suggests that multitasking while eating, including watching TV or working, can lead to overeating. Distracted eating is also linked unhealthy snacking (chips, soda, etc.). Combine those unhealthy snacks with overeating and weight gain is likely to follow. Thankfully, research also has shown that paying greater attention to a meal was linked with less eating later on. Portion control is another way that you can avoid binge eating while distracted. For example, don’t bring the whole bag of chips with you the next time you sit down in front of the TV. Instead, make it more difficult to overeat by putting the desired amount into a separate bowl.
Don’t slow your meal down
It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you have eaten enough food. This means that if you eat too quickly, you run the risk of overeating, which can cause cramping, worsen digestive issues like IBS, and eventually lead to weight gain. Thankfully, the same studies that linked fast eating with weight gain have also found a link between slower rates of eating and fewer calories consumed. Something as simple as sparking conversation at the dining table, using smaller utensils, or chewing each bite for a little bit longer can help slow your pace of eating and keep you on track with your weight loss goals.
Use smaller dishes
Large portion size is a major contributor to excessive eating. Along with America’s expanding waistline, the average meal size has grown significantly since the 1970s. Serving food on smaller dishes can be an effective way to reduce portion size and prevent overeating. Not only does a small plate make portions look bigger, it requires you to consciously refill your plate if you want more food. Portion control is particularly important if you have digestive issues like IBS, as large meals can lead to cramping and diarrhea. It may be difficult to control portion size when dining out, but sharing meals or taking part of your meal home as leftovers can help.
Measure out a serving
You might be surprised at how small a serving is for most foods. For raw vegetables, a single serving is one cup — around the size of a baseball — and half a cup for cooked vegetables. A serving size of meat and fish is 3 ounces — about the size of a deck of playing cards. Serving size can be particularly important for prepackaged foods. Since the nutritional information of a product reflects the contents of a single serving, some companies may lower the serving size but increase the serving count to make a product appear healthier. For example, one frozen dinner may have 2-3 servings. Much like the use of smaller plates, an understanding of serving size can help you control portions, prevent overeating, avoid triggering digestive issues like IBS, and better manage your weight.
Don’t let your mood affect your food
Do you eat more when you are nervous, upset or stressed? Research suggests that there may be some truth behind the term “comfort food.” Many people have increased cravings for unhealthy foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar as a result of emotional or stressful situations. While these foods may provide temporary solace, they can also derail your dietary goals and lead to more stress in the future. If you find that your eating habits mimic the ups and downs of your mood, you may need to find a healthy substitute that can help you deal with stress. Regular exercise may be the perfect substitute, as physical activity can reduce stress, boost your mood, and improve symptoms stemming from chronic conditions like MS, all while helping you achieve your goal of weight loss.
Drink water before a meal
When people are extremely hungry, they generally eat too much food too quickly. Drinking a large glass of water shortly before your meal can go a long way to help curb your appetite. Water adds volume to your stomach, which may temporarily reduce the hunger pangs. This technique has the added bonus of helping to keep you hydrated, which is especially important if you include exercise as a part of your weight loss plan. You could take it a step further by taking a water bottle with you to work and drinking throughout the day to help prevent office snacking.
Eat filling food
You don’t have to go hungry to lose weight; you just need to be sure to choose the right foods. Most diets cut down on foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. While these ingredients might taste great, they do little to keep you full. Replacing these unhealthy ingredients with meals that are rich in fiber can help you eat less and avoid hunger for longer since fiber is digested at a slower rate. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are generally great sources of fiber, and fiber-rich diets have been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Fiber is also particularly useful for individuals with certain digestive issues, including IBS, as it helps promote healthy digestion and prevent symptoms like constipation.
Don’t skip meal
Reducing calories is often a central part of weight loss programs, but there are good and bad ways to go about this process. Skipping a meal each day may seem like an easy and effective way to reduce the amount of calories you eat, but unfortunately, research suggests that this technique isn’t very successful for weight loss. The hunger caused by skipping a meal makes it more likely that you will consume a greater amount of food once you do sit down to eat. Also, your body experiences increased cravings for energy-dense foods after a prolonged period of hunger, which may undermine your efforts to avoid foods that are high in fats and sugar.
Ensure a regular sleep schedule
If you’ve missed a night of sleep, you probably know first hand the toll it can take on your energy and concentration. While one night of poor sleep isn’t too serious, consistently getting less than six hours of sleep a night can increase your risk of depression, diabetes, symptom flare-ups related to chronic diseases like MS, and even obesity. These risks increase because sleep causes changes in the balance of hormones that play a role in one’s appetite, energy metabolism and glucose (blood sugar) processing. Insufficient sleep throws off this hormonal balance and has been linked to an increased appetite as well as increased cravings for high-calorie foods. The resulting fatigue may also affect your willpower to continue with an exercise routine.
Eat and exercise with a healthy friend
As much as we might not like to admit it, our personal habits tend to reflect those of our friends and family. From drinking and smoking to diet and exercise, many aspects of our daily lives are influenced by those around us. Research suggests that when a friend gains weight, you are more likely to gain weight as well. Thankfully, the inverse also seems to be true. Finding a friend to work out with can help keep you stay motivated and make it a bit harder to break the habit. Similarly, making weekly plans with a friend to cook a healthy meal or eat at a healthy restaurant can ease you into your diet and help you to discover new, tasty dishes.
Plan your meal
Failing to plan is planning to fail. To ensure that you eat a well-balanced, healthy meal, plan your meals ahead of time. By mapping out your meals, you are more likely to have healthy food on hand and less likely to end up dining on some fast food. You can budget and save money when taking a trip to the supermarket by only buying what is on your grocery list. Be sure to continue the strategy of planning ahead when it comes to special occasions and vacations. Most restaurants have their menu online, making it easy to see if they offer healthy, low-calorie options. Exploring your choices ahead of time is also a good strategy for patients who are in need of a special diet due to certain health conditions like diabetes or a food allergy.
Be persistent, be patient
Fad diets come and go, and those that promise rapid weight loss are almost always doomed to fail. You didn’t gain all your extra weight overnight, so you can’t realistically expect to lose it quickly. Successful weight loss is a long process that occurs at a rate of around 1-2 pounds per week. Don’t think of exercise and diet as a temporary change, but rather consider it the start of a new and healthier lifestyle. Achieving your ideal weight may take a while, but the benefits are worth it! After just 10 pounds of weight loss, your blood sugar and blood pressure will improve, and your risk of weight-related disease will decrease. You will have more energy, and your mood, self-image and confidence are likely to improve as well.
Source: Daily RX