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Healthy weight loss tips for long lasting health benefits
Weight loss often tops the list of our New Year’s resolutions. Setting a realistic weight loss plan where you’re making healthier food choices and exercising more can help you achieve your goal.
If losing weight is your resolution, set a goal, stay on track and stay motivated. The following are weight loss tips to help you reach your weight loss goal and make your resolution a successful one. And remember, you can make a weight loss resolution anytime of the year.
1. Avoid quick weight loss schemes
People often make resolutions to lose weight and turn to quick fixes that may not be right for them.
“I have a lot of respect for people who can follow highly restrictive diets,” says Adam Rhodes, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley. “Those diets can lead to very significant and very rapid weight loss. But they don’t always include a good plan to keep the weight off.”
Eating fewer than 800 calories a day drops pounds quickly, but when you return to more normal eating patterns, your metabolism will have slowed, and weight will creep back. And those diets can be agonizing.”
Dr. Rhodes points out that extreme diets can cause irritability, light-headedness and constant hunger. For most people, he recommends starting with one small change and building healthy eating and activity habits from there. Cutting cooking oil and avoiding fried foods are a good start.
2. Check serving sizes
Watch your portions. Serving sizes for pasta, rice and other packaged foods are often smaller than you’d expect. It can be shocking to measure out a serving and realize we are often eating several servings at each meal or snack. Check the nutrition facts label for information about serving sizes and calories and see if you really need more than one serving. Also, use the label to help you make healthier choices about fat, sugar and salt.
3. Know “fat-free” doesn’t mean low-calorie
A low-fat or fat-free food may have fewer calories than its full-fat equivalent, but not always. In fact, added sugar or starches can raise the calorie count. “And actually,” says Dr. Rhodes, “small amounts of healthy fats, such as avocado or walnuts, can help you feel full sooner, so you eat less overall.”
4. Try to slow down eating
It takes your body about 20 minutes to send the “I’m full” signal to your brain. When you eat quickly, you tend to eat more. Eat mindfully, chewing every bite 15 to 20 times and enjoying the taste, smell and texture of your food.
“We eat more when we eat in front of screens like computers, phones or television,” says Dr. Rhodes. Eating with others and talking with family or friends creates breaks that naturally slow you down.
5. Drink water before you eat
Water can help curb your appetite. A study found that overweight individuals who drank two cups of water before every meal lost more weight than those who did not. Moreover, people often mistake thirst for hunger, and reach for a snack when a glass of water is really all they need. Add a small splash of fruit juice or squeeze of lemon to water if you want more flavor.
6. Build a healthier plate
A restaurant-size serving of potatoes or a “gourmet” hamburger is far more than most people need to (or should) eat. Dr. Rhodes recommends serving healthy choices on larger plates and less healthy foods on smaller plates, to trick the brain into feeling satisfied with less.
A healthy eating plan includes lots of vegetables and fruits. When you eat at home, cover half of the plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains.
If you’re watching expenses, remember you can eat healthy on a budget. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a dedicated website – CheckMyPlate.gov – with the most current information on healthy eating, including healthy eating on a budget.
7. Know what you are eating when dining out
If you need a quick meal while you’re out, read the calorie information on fast-food menus before you order. Look for places that offer fresh salads but watch the salad dressings, which are often high on calories. Build your own sandwiches, but be sure to skip mayonnaise and other calorie-laden condiments. Order a baked potato, but avoid loading it with sour cream, cheese and bacon. Choose grilled or baked chicken or fish. Swap fries for fruit or yogurt and select water or a low-calorie beverage.
8. Make time to exercise
Healthy eating combined with physical activity can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Getting active is easier than you may think. Find something you like to do such as walking, swimming or hiking, and just do it. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t make excuses about not having time to exercise. Remember, it’s better to do moderate and consistent exercise every day than to try to be a weekend warrior and risk injury or giving up.
Federal guidelines recommend that for substantial health benefits adults do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (or 75 to 150 minutes if done vigorously). Adults should also mix in muscle strengthening activities at least two days a week.
9. Get your family involved
Your spouse and kids can also benefit. Get creative together; mix up healthier versions of grandma’s favorite sauce or dessert. Exercising with others is usually more fun too. Recruit a family member, relative or a friend who also wants to lose weight to join you. Together, you can keep each other motivated and on track.
Making healthy changes can be challenging. Be patient. Results will not happen overnight. If you take in fewer calories while burning more, you will get results.
Healthy Life is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps Health. For more information, or for a physician referral, visit www.scripps.org or call 1-800-Scripps.