Losing weight can be difficult. Keeping it off is even harder! As you know, weight loss gimmicks come and go and some are even recycled. But we do know that successful weight loss and maintenance is due to eating fewer calories and burning more. The best advice is to take it slow, making permanent changes in diet and activity. Each pound of weight lost requires that you either consume 3500 fewer calories or burn them off with exercise, or preferably both.
Here are a dozen tried and true tips recommended by weight loss specialists:
1. Figure out what 1,500 calories looks like. If you're trying to lose weight on a 1,500 calorie meal plan, you need to maintain a healthy mix of those calories - at least five servings of fruits and vegetables; six of whole grain breads, rice, crackers and other grains; two of protein foods; and three of nonfat dairy products. Learn about serving sizes: 3 ounces of lean meat, fish or poultry (the size of a deck of cards) is one serving. One slice of bread is one serving, while a large bagel may equal almost five!
2. Keep a food journal. Studies show that the act of writing down what and how much you eat helps you identify problem areas and times when calories sneak in. It also helps uncover unconscious eating and helps you spot and prevent overeating patterns.
3. Donít deny yourself. Cutting favorite foods out of your diet will only set you up for bingeing later on. You can still enjoy your favorites if you limit portion sizes.
4. Move your body! The only way to keep weight off is with regular physical exercise. Start out slowly, and then gradually build up your time, intensity and frequency from there. We typically underestimate how much activity is needed. Most people need to exercise 4-5 times per week for about 45 minutes. That can be broken up into 2 or 3 segments. The ideal fitness program alternates aerobic activity such as brisk walking, running or bicycling, with strength training using hand weights or gym equipment. Even with your sedentary job you can find ways to get up and walk around, take the stairs, park in the far end of the parking lot, etc.
5. Eat slowly. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it's full. Allow that amount of time for each meal.
6. Eat at regular intervals at least three times a day. Never skip breakfast or lunch. Skipping or under-eating meals often triggers you to overeat later in the day and can cause a drop in your metabolism.
7. Eat enough food. Studies show that the key to losing weight and keeping it off is eating foods with lots of volume yet few calories. This means plenty of things like whole-wheat pasta, beans, vegetables, fruit, and only low-fat dairy, chicken or meat. A cup of broth-based soup as an appetizer could cut the edge of your appetite without many calories. Choose 1-2/3 cups grapes over 1/4 cup raisins. Both provide 100 calories, but the grapes are more satisfying.
8. Cut back on sugar, alcohol and fat. Calories from these items appear more likely to end up as body fat than are similar amounts of carbohydrate or protein.
9. Cook more, eat out less. When you are the chef, you control the cooking methods and portion sizes. Restaurant portion sizes have skyrocketed, giving patrons double, triple or even quadruple the amount of food that most people need.
10. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you're comfortable, but not full or stuffed.
11. Watch beverage calories. Smoothies, sweetened coffee drinks, wine, beer, soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored teas and waters, sports drinks and fruit juice all contain calories. Studies show that when we drink extra calories we don't compensate by eating less. Drink plenty of naturally calorie free water, tea and seltzer to stay hydrated and help fill you up.
12. Don't be a slave to the scale. Weigh yourself just once a week, preferably first thing in the morning. Remember that weight is the least reliable indicator of weight changes. Use certain articles of clothing as a judge, i.e. a favorite pair of jeans.
For an individualized meal plan, consult a registered dietitian. To locate an RD in your area, log onto the American Dietetic Association website at www.eatright.org and click on the Find a Dietitian icon. You will be asked your zip code and what area of specialty you require, for example, weight loss. You may also call the American Dietetic Association at (800) 355-1655 for a dietitian referral.