Losing weight is as simple as burning more calories than you consume or eating fewer calories than you burn. Then why do so many people struggle with losing it? Because, there is an art (and science) to losing weight. It’s highly personal and a unique approach is required for everyone. That’s why so many fad diets don’t work long-term for the masses. Low carb, no carb, fat-free, high protein…there are some people who do well with these constraints, but you may not be one of them. Besides, your body requires a certain amount of calories just to exist and your body is smarter than you. If you try to starve it, it will conserve energy so you won’t waste away (at least initially). If you give it more than it needs, it will “save for a rainy day” by increasing your fat storage. Let’s not forget the psychological aspect. Ever try to lose weight while angry, (sad, depressed, or frustrated)? How did that work for you? I can go on and on and would still only scratch the surface. The bottom line is losing weight and keeping it under control can be difficult to manage. And it may take some time to figure out what works for you but when you do, the rest as they say, is easy. So here are eight simple tips to get you started and hopefully keep you on track.
What’s your motivation? Whether you have health challenges or just want to fit into your favorite pair of jeans you should have something that inspires you to keep going. Whatever your motivation, make it about you. Don’t lose weight to impress someone else. Banking on the admiration of others will only frustrate you especially if you find out they’re not paying attention to you at all. Write down your 5 reasons for wanting to lose weight. If you list anything related to anyone other than your precious little ones (who we will assume need you to be healthy and happy), cross it off and list another reason. Do it for the only one you ever need to impress- YOU!
Don’t be afraid to eat. So many people decide to lose weight and assume that means food is the enemy. Remember it takes a few hundred calories just to sit still and read this. Yes, the amount you eat is important but the type of food you eat is more important. A bowl of strawberries is not the same as a bowl of (strawberry) ice cream. You can eat way more of the fruit and still not match the calories in the ice cream. It’s about making wise choices. That is not to say you will never eat ice cream but more often than not, your “go to” foods will be less calorie dense and more nutrient rich. For more on this, read my “Food Resolution” blog.
Know your triggers. Are there certain foods you just can’t pass by without having a full blown fit? Or forget portion control, do you reach for the entire bag of chips after a fight with your spouse? Emotional triggers are just as important to know as actual food triggers. If every time you are upset you reach for food to calm you down, you will be on the fast track to the wonderful world of roller coaster dieting where the only place you’ll end up is back where you started. So here’s how you deal with your triggers- acknowledge them, then have a plan to deal with them. If you love chocolate then telling yourself you will never eat it is not going to work. Don’t deny yourself, but do restrain yourself. Work it into your life whether it be a little piece at 3:00 or your favorite dessert once a week. Triggers lose their power once you control them. If your trigger is an emotion like anger, then think of 2 or 3 things you can do to return you to calm without going to the fridge. Change your environment by taking a walk, write out your anger in your journal, or burn off some steam with exercise (this is where a punching bag in your basement might be useful).
Size matters. No matter what else you do to lose weight, portion control must be on your list. Even the healthiest foods can be eaten in excess. A handful of nuts is a great snack but a canister of nuts is dinner. Learn to read labels and know how much you are really consuming. The first place to look is the serving size and the number of servings. Cereal is very deceiving in this regard. The picture on the box shows a substantially larger bowl than the ½ cup or ¾ cup serving the label recommends. If you are counting carbs remember a serving is approximately 15-20 grams. If the label lists 40 grams per serving you may want eat half of it. Eating on smaller plates, using child size bowls, or using kiddie cups especially for ice cream are simple tricks to fool your eye by making it look like you are actually getting more than you really are.
Add your own sweetness. Sugar is a hidden evil that will stop your weight loss dead in its tracks and it’s highly addictive. Many foods that are low fat will have more added sugar to improve the taste. Sugar is a necessary energy source but whatever is not burned is typically stored as fat in the body. A teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams so if you eat a food that has 8 grams of sugar that would be like adding 2 teaspoons of sugar. Let’s say you are going to eat a single serving (4 ounces) container of pudding that has 20 grams of sugar. That is the equivalent of adding 5 teaspoons of sugar! Ask yourself- would you ever add that much sugar if you were sweetening it yourself?
Don’t drink your calories. Liquid calories, and yes that includes, alcohol and fruit juice don’t satisfy hunger and provide very little nutrients. What you get are empty calories that, because of their high sugar, will make you eat more in the long run because you’re still hungry. Account for the liquid calories by adjusting in other areas. Maybe you will eat a little less pasta at dinner to account for the glass of wine you have to have. Try adding water to fruit juice. Over time you will retrain your taste buds and you will notice just how syrupy sweet commercial fruit juice can be. Also increasing your fiber intake can slow how quickly your blood sugar rises. Consuming a lot of sugary beverages including those that are naturally sweetened can affect insulin sensitivity leading to chronic conditions like diabetes not to mention, weight gain.
Move on purpose. Exercise and nutrition are really good friends not estranged lovers. They should be together if you want long-term weight loss success. Although each is important, if you rely on diet alone your weight loss efforts may be halted; and exercising while eating a crappy diet is not beneficial for building a healthy body. Exercise can also stabilize your blood sugar, increase your energy, and help improve your mood.
Go to bed. Getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep has been linked to increased fatigue (which might make you eat more to boost your energy), irritability, high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, and you guessed it- weight gain. Think of sleep as a way to reset your clock and right the wrongs of the previous 16 hours. Chronic lack of quality sleep can affect the way your body normally functions especially the hormones that tell your body when to eat and when to stop eating. Also, your metabolism and digestion can be impaired by not getting enough sleep. If going to bed and staying asleep are challenges for you, you can adjust your pre- sleep routine by avoiding the following: eating heavy meals or consuming caffeine within a few hours of bed; falling asleep with the television or the lights on; and strenuous exercise right before bed. Lack of sleep can be a sign of underlying health issues such as sleep apnea so talk to your doctor if your situation does not improve.