The key to successful, healthy weight loss
Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple: If you eat more calories than you burn then you gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.
Since 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat, if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you'll lose approximately 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). Simple, right? So why is weight loss so hard?
All too often, we make weight loss much more difficult than it needs to be with extreme diets that leave us cranky and starving, unhealthy lifestyle choices that undermine our dieting efforts, and emotional eating habits that stop us before we get started. But there’s a better way! You can lose weight without feeling miserable. By making smart choices every day, you can develop new eating habits and preferences that will leave you feeling satisfied—as well as winning the battle of the bulge.
Not all body fat is the same
Where you carry your fat matters. The health risks are greater if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen, as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat is stored deep below the skin surrounding the abdominal organs and liver, and is closely linked to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Getting started with healthy weight loss
While there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss, the following guidelines are a great place to start:
Think lifestyle change, not short-term diet. Permanent weight loss is not something that a “quick-fix” diet can achieve. Instead, think about weight loss as a permanent lifestyle change—a commitment to your health for life. Various popular diets can help to jumpstart your weight loss, but permanent changes in your lifestyle and food choices are what will work in the long run.
Find a cheering section. Social support means a lot. Programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers use group support to impact weight loss and lifelong healthy eating. Seek out support—whether in the form of family, friends, or a support group—so that you can get the encouragement you need.
Slow and steady wins the race. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week to ensure healthy weight loss. Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your mind and body, making you feel sluggish, drained, and sick. When you drop a lot of weight quickly, you’re actually losing mostly water and muscle, rather than fat.
Set goals to keep you motivated. Short-term goals, like wanting to fit into a bikini for the summer, usually don’t work as well as goals like wanting to feel more confident or become healthier for your children’s sakes. When frustration and temptation strike, concentrate on the many benefits you will reap from being healthier and leaner.
Use tools that help you track your progress. Keep a food journal and weigh yourself regularly, keeping track of each pound you lose and inch of your waist lost. By keeping track of your weight loss efforts, you’ll see the results in black and white, which will help you stay motivated.
Keep in mind it may take some experimenting to find the right diet for your individual body. It’s important that you feel satisfied so that you can stick with it on a long-term basis. If one diet plan doesn’t work, then try another one. There are many ways to lose weight. The key is to find what works for you.
Reducing calorie intake promotes weight loss—type of diet isn’t important
A major study concluded that it doesn’t matter which diet program you choose, as long as it is one that reduces your calorie intake and is healthy for your heart (low in saturated fat and cholesterol). In other words, the best diet is the one you’ll stick to, not necessarily the one currently topping the bestseller list.
Healthy dieting and weight loss tip #1: Avoid common pitfalls
Put a Stop to Emotional Eating
Diets, especially fad diets or “quick-fix” pills and plans, often set you up for failure because:
You feel deprived. Diets that cut out entire groups of food, such as carbs or fat, are simply impractical, not to mention unhealthy. The key is moderation. Eliminating entire food groups doesn’t allow for a healthy, well-rounded diet and creates nutritional imbalances.
You lose weight, but can’t keep it off. Diets that severely cut calories, restrict certain foods, or rely on ready-made meals might work in the short term. However, once you meet your weight loss goal, you don’t have a plan for maintaining your weight and the pounds quickly come back.
After your diet, you seem to put on weight more quickly. When you drastically restrict your food intake, your metabolism will temporarily slow down. Once you start eating normally, you’ll gain weight until your metabolism bounces back—another reason why starvation or “fasting” diets are counterproductive.
You break your diet and feel too discouraged to try again. Just because you gave in to temptation doesn’t mean all your hard work goes down the drain. Healthy eating is about the big picture. An occasional splurge won’t kill your efforts. Diets that are too restrictive are conducive to cheating—when you feel deprived, it’s easy to fall off the wagon.
You lose money faster than you lose weight. Special shakes, meals, and programs may be cost-prohibitive and less practical for long-term weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
You feel isolated and unable to enjoy social situations revolving around food. Without some practical, healthy diet strategies, you may feel lost when dining out or attending events like cocktail parties or weddings. If the food served isn’t on your specific diet plan, what can you do?
The person on the commercial lost 30 lbs. in 2 months—and you haven’t. Diet companies make a lot of grandiose promises. Most are simply not realistic. Unfortunately, losing weight is not easy, and anyone who makes it seem that way is doing you a disservice. Don’t get discouraged by setting unrealistic goals!
Healthy dieting and weight loss tip #2: Put a stop to emotional eating
We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. If we did, no one would be overweight. All too often, we turn to food for comfort and stress relief. When this happens, we frequently pack on pounds.
Don’t underestimate the importance of putting a stop to emotional eating. Learning to recognize the emotional triggers that lead you to overeat and respond with healthier choices can make all the difference in your weight loss efforts.
To start, consider how and when you eat. Do you only eat when you are hungry, or do you reach for a snack while watching TV? Do you eat when you’re stressed or bored? When you’re lonely? To reward yourself?
Once you’ve identified your emotional eating tendencies, you can work towards gradually changing the habits and mental attitudes that have sabotaged your dieting efforts in the past.
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