Want to drop pounds, and do it safely?
First, keep in mind that experts say it’s best to lose weight slowly. As it’s more likely to stay off. If you shed pounds too fast, you’ll lose muscle and water instead of fat, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The academy’s advice: Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week, and avoid fad diets. It’s best to plan your weight loss on changes you can stick with over time.
Start with a Plan
You’ve probably heard the saying, “calories in, calories out” and you just need to burn more calories than you eat and drink.
It’s not always that simple. Because your metabolism plays a big part on how well your body turns calories into fuel. If you cut too many calories that can be bad for you, as this can slow down your metabolism and cause you fall short on some nutrients.
There are many ways you can lose weight, without cutting calories too much. You could start by:
- Figure out how many calories you get in a usual day, and trim back a bit by cutting back 20% on portions or total calories. For example if you consume 2,000 calories daily you’d drop down to 1,600 a day.
- Read food labels and get to know how many calories are in each serving.
- Drink more water, many times your just thirsty and not really hungry. “Feed the thirst first”.
- Whatever method you use, you’ll need to add good-for-you foods like plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein so you keep good nutrition high.
- Think of your plate like a clock. 12-6pm half the clock filled with vegetables 6-9pm healthy carbs and 9-12pm lean protein.
- Working with a dietitian is a good idea, for a couple reasons you can make a healthy eating plan and be accountable.
Accountability and Support
Many apps can help you track you’re eating. Since you probably have a smartphone with you all the time, you can use it to keep up with your plan. Or keep a good old fashion pen-and-paper food journal of what you ate and when.
- You’ll also want to have people on your side to help you stay motivated and to cheer you on. So ask your family and friends to support your efforts to lose weight.
- You might also want to join a weight loss group where you can talk about how it’s going with people who can relate. Their encouragement can be “contagious,” in a good way!
- Weight yourself 2 times a week. I recommend Friday and Monday. Why? Because Friday you can see how well you’ve done all week and a Monday weight-in will let you know if you went over did it on the weekend and need to cut back.
Find Out What Drives You to Eat
Basically speaking, food is fuel. It gives you energy. But very few people eat just for energy. Food is at every social gathering. And it’s where many of us turn when we have a rough day.
It’s important to know what makes you want to eat when you’re not hungry, and have a plan for those times.
First step is finding out what your triggers are. Is it stress, anger, anxiety, depression or loneliness in a certain part of your life? Or is food your main reward when something good happens?
Next, try to notice when those feelings come up, and have a plan ready to do something else instead of eating. Could you take a walk? Text or call a friend?
How about a reward for making a different choice? Just not food as the reward ☺
Reset What and When You Eat
You don’t have to go vegan, gluten free, or quit eating specific foods to lose weight. Actually just the opposite as you’re more likely to keep the pounds off for good if it’s something you can live with for the long haul.
But it does make sense to cut way down on, or totally cut out, empty calories.
Limit added sugars. These are the sugars in cookies, cakes, sugar-sweetened drinks, but not the sugars that are naturally in fruits. Sugary foods often have a lot of calories and few nutrients. Try to consume less than 10% of your daily calories from added sugars.
Choose your carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for example, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
Include protein. It’s satisfying and helps keep up your muscles. There are vegetarian and vegan sources (nuts, beans, and soy are some), as well as lean meat, poultry, fish and dairy.
Most Americans get enough protein but can opt to get it from leaner sources, so you may already have plenty in your diet. Your exact protein needs depend on your age, gender, and how active you are.
Make friends with good fats. Small amounts of fat can help you feel full and less like you’re on a diet. The better choices are those in fish, nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil. These have unsaturated fats — polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.
Fill up on fiber. From vegetables, whole grains, fruits — any plant food will have fiber. Some have more than others. Top sources include artichokes, green peas, broccoli, lentils, and lima beans. And, fruits, raspberries are high on the list.
Eat more often. If you eat 5-6 times a day, this helps keep hunger at bay. You could split your calories equally across all of those mini-meals, or make some bigger than others. You will need to plan portions so that you don’t end up eating more than you intended.
What About Meal Replacements? These products help control calories. They’re easy convenient and take the guesswork out of dieting. Just remember if you’re leaning on meal replacements and cutting out meals you’ll need to re-adjust when you add meals. Best to keep meals close to total calories as the calories in a meal replacement.
Watch your drinks. One easy way to lose weight quickly is to cut out liquid calories, like soda, juice, and alcohol. Replace them with zero-calorie drinks such as lemon or lime water, mineral water for a fizzy alternative, unsweetened tea or black coffee.
Diet drinks can backfire; sure they’ll save you calories, compared with sugary beverages. But if you then reach for a cookie or other treat because you’re still hungry or you think you saved enough calories for it, the plan backfires.
Should You Fast – what about Intermittent Fasting?
You might think fasting is a quick way to drop pounds. But experts don’t recommend it, because it’s not a long-term solution. It’s better to have an eating plan that you can stick to over time and fits into your lifestyle. An alternative is intermittent fasting, there’s a few versions 16-8 which is eating all your meals in 8 hours and then fasting 16 hours before your next meal. This is an extreme version and for many too intense to sustain. A modified version is eating your last meal by 7 or 8pm (earlier if you can) then not having your next meal for 12-14 hours later. Example dinner at 7pm breakfast 9am.
No matter how you kick-start your weight loss, the best way to keep it off is with long-lasting lifestyle changes, like a healthy eating plan and physical activity. If you’re not sure where to start, how many calories to cut, or how to do it safely, you might want to consult a registered dietitian.
Written by Sylvia Ortiz, Founder of MacroLife Naturals. Sylvia is a go-to media source and frequent speaker on balancing the body’s Ph, and the importance of ingredients.