When it comes to weight loss, we encounter a dizzying array of fad diets, exercise programs, diet pills, informational products, and other resources. Some of these items prove effective, but many amount to little more than scientific quackery and clever marketing schemes. Despite the many tools now on the market, the best way to lose weight still boils down to the simple mantra of “calories in, calories out.”
By adopting a balanced and nutritious diet and engaging in moderate exercise at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week, you can lose weight. The length of time required to reach your weight-loss goal depends on how many pounds you need to lose. Generally, about one pound per week (but no more than two) is the healthiest and most sustainable rate of weight loss. Although it may take several months or longer to achieve your goal weight, more important is the enhanced wellbeing you will experience along the way.
The Obesity Epidemic in America
If you struggle with excess weight, you’re not alone. Sixty-six percent of American adults are currently either overweight or obese, and children and teens are also beginning to be affected. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes are all health conditions for which obesity is a risk factor. Unfortunately, understanding the health risks doesn’t always make it any easier to drop those pounds.
Why Fad Diets Don’t Work
Cabbage soup? Grapefruit? Cookies?
You have probably heard of several fad diets, even if you haven’t tried one. These are regimens that often incorporate extreme dietary changes in order to help the dieter lose weight fast. They may require you to eliminate certain foods or even entire food groups, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Fad diets are temporary solutions that are not meant to be followed for long periods of time. Once fad dieters return to their previous way of eating, the pounds usually find their way back.
Which Weight-Loss Diet Will Work For Me?
There are many weight-loss diets that can help dieters to achieve their goals; the difficult part is choosing and sticking to one of them. Here are some tips for winning at the dieting game:
- Plan ahead. Always talk with your doctor before beginning a weight-loss regimen. Excess weight can have numerous causes, from poor diet and sedentary lifestyle to genetic or psychological factors. Often, multiple causes contribute to obesity, so discussing your medical history with your physician can help you take a healthy approach to weight loss.
- Use an “all of the above” approach. Generally, eating fewer calories and incorporating more exercise into your daily routine should both be included in your weight-loss plan.
- Use online tools. The USDA’s Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator can help you calculate your daily caloric needs based on your current weight. Using an online food and exercise tracker will help you to evaluate your choices on a daily basis.
- Eat a balanced diet. Although it is important to reduce caloric intake, don’t do so at the expense of nutrition. Most balanced diet plans incorporate lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. However, if you have allergies, intolerances, or cultural or ethnic observances that limit any of these food groups, talk with your doctor or nutritionist about healthy alternatives that will help you to get the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients you need.
- Don’t skip meals! While following a weight-loss diet, eat regular meals, especially breakfast. A healthy meal in the morning sets the tone and gives you fuel to start your day.
- Treat yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy treats in moderation; depriving yourself often leads to obsessing over food and eventually splurging on it!
- Become your own chef. Cooking at home helps you control the size and contents of your meals. Fast-food and takeout options often come in huge portions and are packed with added salt, sugar, and fat.
Incorporating Exercise into Your Weight-Loss Plan
Because exercise relieves stress, improves mental acuity, and boosts energy and metabolism, all weight-loss programs should incorporate physical activity. At minimum, aim for 30 minutes of exercise, most days of the week. The 30 minutes could be broken up into smaller bursts – for example, try taking a 10-minute walk around the block, three times a day.
For the best results, successful “losers” incorporate several different types of exercise into their fitness routines, such as:
- Aerobic exercises: Rhythmic, sustained movements like walking, biking, or swimming strengthen the heart and increase cardiovascular endurance.
- Strength training: Lifting weights or using resistance training increases muscle mass and bone density, while also improving balance.
- Flexibility exercises: Yoga, Pilates, or even a few minutes of stretching each day can help improve range of motion and reduce muscle soreness.
For your safety, always talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
How Quickly Should I Lose Weight?
Your weight-loss goal should be reasonable and attainable; pressuring yourself to lose too much too quickly is a recipe for failure. Talk with your doctor to learn your current BMI and find out a healthy BMI to aim for.
As you work towards your goal, try not to focus on how many total pounds you want to lose. Instead, break this number down into intermediate goals and reward yourself when you reach them. (Just make sure not to use food as a reward; try a day at the spa or a new outfit!) These milestones will give you an incentive to keep working towards the next goal.
“Lifestyle Change” Means Long-term
Setbacks happen! You might skip a workout now and then or overindulge on a special occasion. Sometimes the number on the scale won’t budge, or it might even begin to creep upward. Rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, remember that the changes you are making will last a lifetime. Dust yourself off, get back up, and have the confidence that you are still making progress towards a leaner, healthier you.
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