Slow and Steady: How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off
Looking for solid weight loss advice? Set modest goals and take it slowly if you want to keep pounds off.
Your skirt is too tight. You can't zip your jeans. You don't even want to think about putting on a swimsuit. You look in the mirror and mutter about how you've got to lose weight.
Though there's enough dieting advice out there to fill a dozen refrigerators, be wary of programs that offer quick weight-loss solutions. Remember, modest goals and a slow course will increase your chances of both losing the weight and keeping it off.
Back to basics
If you are really serious about long-term weight loss, look to change habits, not slash calories and deprive yourself. Start with these tips:
- Maintain a sensible calorie intake. If you cut back too much, you will risk failure and lose muscle tissue - not fat. A one- to two-pound per week weight loss is optimal.
- Spread your calories evenly throughout the day. Do you eat as little as possible during the day so you can "save" calories for later? This approach almost always backfires. You'll find yourself raiding the kitchen in the late afternoon. On an 1,800-calorie meal plan, for instance, aim to have 300 to 500 calories at your meals. This leaves room for two snacks of 100 to 200 calories in between. Eat every three hours to keep hunger at bay.
- Combine food groups for best blood sugar control. This also helps keep you feeling satisfied and away from the cookie jar. Examples would be: one or two eggs with a whole-grain English muffin, salad with tuna and a little olive oil, hearty bean soup, oatmeal with a handful of walnuts, low-fat cottage cheese with almonds and sliced fruit.
- Eat high-fiber foods that are wholesome and satisfying. These will keep you full without breaking your calorie budget. Eat bean soups, lots of cooked vegetables, salads and whole grains (brown rice, barley, whole-grain breads and cereals). Also include some healthy fat in your meal plan, such as some avocado, nuts or olive oil.
- Keep a food journal. Write down everything that you eat and drink for at least three days, along with the time. Little things can add up. Are you drinking some of your calories that you are not aware of? Picking at leftovers? Going long periods without eating? Do you eat most of your calories in the latter part of the day? Are you getting enough healthy fat and protein? Are your carbohydrates coming from wholesome sources or are they refined (lots of white bread, pastas)?
- Be positive. Don't approach this with a diet mentality. You are changing your eating habits for health, weight control and quality of life. Feeding your body nutritious food is truly a gift you can give yourself.
- Exercise! If you want to trim down, you will need to include regular exercise in your life on most days of the week. Walk briskly, swim, bike - work up to anything that will get your body moving. To lose weight, aim to work in 60 to 90 minutes, five days a week. Working with light weights at least twice a week can help keep your muscles from wasting and your bones from shrinking. Always check first with your doctor before you increase your activity level.
Losing weight isn't just a matter of looking good but of staying healthy. Carrying extra pounds puts you at risk for developing many diseases, especially heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.