Dieting sucks. And all those weight-loss products that line the supermarket shelves don’t work. Starving ourselves to lose weight doesn’t help. Yo-yo dieting is bad for us.
The reality is that losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term (okay, a lifetime) commitment.
My motivation for making this commitment came from watching my mom suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes; then watching my sisters develop these conditions as they aged. In their cases, these diseases developed from unhealthy eating habits, along with carrying around too much extra weight.
What’s your motivation? Do you want to lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol levels? Do you want to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that take their toll on our bodies? Do you simply want to boost your energy levels or enhance your self-confidence?
Whatever your motivation, reaching a healthy weight simply makes life more enjoyable, and adds to quality longevity. And once you make that commitment, there are common sense strategies that can help you reach your weight loss goal.
- The first step is to set your weight loss goal. A realistic goal is the key. I’m sure you’ve seen all those pictures in the gossip magazines of celebrities whose bones stick out and whose faces look drawn because they’re simply too skinny. They’re not doing their overall health any favors, either. According to the experts, it’s a good idea to base your weight goal based on your body mass index. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides a BMI calculator The site also provides some useful tools and resources. The Live Science website provides some more information about reaching your healthy weight, in its article: Is BMI Best? 8 Steps to your Healthiest Weight.
- After setting your goal, brainstorm about the action steps you’ll need to take to reach that goal. Set short-term goals to keep yourself motivated. Then reward yourself when you reach one of these goals.
- Pick a date to get started and annotate that date on your calendar. Not picking a date may cause you to continue to put off your weight management plan. Then do some advance planning: fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy food options, buy some exercise DVDs, sign up for an exercise class, go online to find a support system. (I like Spark People, which is free to join, but there are many other options as well)
- Don’t starve yourself. Eating too few calories is counterproductive, because it causes our metabolism to slow down. Other health risks caused by eating too few calories include: nausea, diarrhea and fatigue, among other things. The best way to decide how many calories to eat during the day is to consider how active you are in your daily life. Spark People and other weight management sites offer tools to help you with this.
- Keep a food journal. We often eat mindlessly, causing us to underestimate what we eat on a daily basis. For at least a week, write down not only what you eat, but also portion sizes. This will help you track the times when you overeat. Being aware of this can help you plan to substitute healthier options at these times. (Don’t forget to count beverages)
- Eating breakfast is crucial. But not just any breakfast. An all carbohydrate morning meal will cause your energy to lag early in the day, and won’t keep you filled up for long. Instead, include a protein, whole grains, and fruit. For example, try an egg scrambled in canola oil or a whole-wheat bread thin with berries on the side.
- Fill your lunch and dinner plate with vegetables and fruits. They add anti-oxidants, nutrients and fiber to your meals. You can eat bigger portions of them, since they have fewer calories and fat than meats and processed foods. When choosing proteins to add to your meal, it’s best to choose plant-based options such as: lentils, chia seeds, quinoa, nuts, beans (all varieties) and soy foods.
- Speaking of fiber, boost your intake in order to lose weight. Fiber helps block the absorption of calories. Try oatmeal or other high fiber cereal with breakfast, beans for lunch, and whole grains throughout your day. Skip the “white” foods such as white flour, white bread, white rice (all the high-glycemic stuff that causes spikes in our blood sugar).
- Avoid processed foods and cut back on (bad) fat intake. Processed foods have too much salt, too much sugar and too many trans-fats. To cut back on fat, choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat cheese and yogurt, and bake or broil food instead of frying it.
- Drink up. Cold water, that is. Some research indicates that drinking six 8 ounce glasses of cold water can enhance our resting metabolism by 50 calories a day. Additionally, drinking water keeps you hydrated and can stop hunger pangs. Both our brain and our body need water to function well.
- Don’t forget to sweat. Some health experts argue that cutting calories is more important for weight loss than exercising. I’d argue that even if it’s easier to eat 100 less calories a day than to burn off those 100 calories, exercise definitely has its place in the weight management game. Exercise helps you burn fat, strengthens those muscles and bones, reduces stress, lower cholesterol, and builds self-confidence.
For further reading:
To Lose the Weight, Change How You Relate (to Food) – Why behavioral skills are the key to long-term weight loss
©Vital Aging for Women. 2017