The weight-loss journey is demanding, but incredibly rewarding. Results are not just about dress size and appearance, though. Weight loss is primarily about your health and wellbeing. While it does require a lot of effort, it’s entirely possible to simplify weight loss with the ABCs from this post. So, read on to learn more.
Avoid fad diets
Fad diets seem like they have it all – miraculous results in a short period of time, without the need to exercise and make any sort of effort to change lifestyle. Their appeal intensifies when you see famous people and social media influencers praising these diets. While it may seem tempting to try them out, you should avoid fad dieting. It doesn’t work! Fad diets prevent you from obtaining much-needed nutrients from your food because they are too restrictive (1). Once you stop following these diets, the lost pounds return. This is known as a yo-yo effect. Therefore, for successful and sustainable weight loss you should avoid fad diets and focus on eating healthy. A well-balanced diet is key.
Breakfast is crucial
A common mistake that most of us have made at some point is skipping meals. This tactic is often employed to reduce calorie intake. In most cases, it’s breakfast we skip. However, the reality is different and this approach won’t work. Skipping meals can, actually, make you eat more calories later. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you should eat it regularly. It boosts energy levels and may suppress your appetite. As a result, your calorie intake during the day isn’t too high. Evidence shows breakfast, especially egg-based, enhances weight loss (2). Breakfasts can also protect you against weight regaining (3). Don’t skip your meals.
As much as we’d like this to be false, it’s true. Calories do count! In order to lose weight, you need to consume a lower amount of calories than you burn through exercise. The math is simple, but employing this in real life can be tricky for most of us. One way to simplify this process is to read labels and check the calorie count per serving. That way you’ll get a deeper insight into the calorie load of specific food and use that info to modify your meals when cooking. Plus, there are calculators that you can use to check the calorie content of different meals and ingredients. While you shouldn’t be obsessed with calories, it is useful to know whether some meals contain low or high amounts.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is important, but instead of fruit juices and similar beverages, you should opt for water. Drinking water before each meal can support weight loss, evidence shows (4). Water acts to promote a feeling of fullness and thereby helps reduce calorie intake. Plus it gives you more energy that you can use to improve athletic performance in the gym. Strive to drink eight to 10 glasses of water throughout the day. If you tend to forget about water, you can set up reminders on your phone.
Weight loss requires a lot of effort and dedication which come in the form of changing your lifestyle. Sedentary behavior leads to weight gain because you end up consuming more calories than you burn (5). Therefore, one way to navigate around this problem is to exercise regularly. With exercise, you burn calories and speed up your metabolism. In fact, a combination of exercise and a healthy diet works better than focusing on one of them only (6). Additionally, exercise can help you maintain your weight loss. Try to do both cardio and strength training (on different days) or engage in the activity you like the most.
Fruits and vegetables
A well-balanced diet requires increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. They deliver vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients our body needs for proper function. Evidence confirms fruits and vegetables can support weight loss. They reduce the eating rate and provide a satisfying, yet low-calorie and low-fat content. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are the main sources of fiber that also support weight loss (7, 8). Strive to make fruits and vegetables the “stars” of your meals. It’s also useful to mention fruits are a healthy replacement for sweets.
Get more fiber
The section above briefly mentioned fiber. You’re probably wondering why it matters. Well, fiber promotes weight loss in several ways. First of all, fiber improves digestion and gut health. Plus, it promotes a feeling of fullness and suppresses your appetite (9). As a result, you decrease calorie intake and avoid overeating. Good sources of fiber are beans, whole grains, pears, avocados, apples, bananas, beets, carrots, artichokes, broccoli, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, almonds, oats, chia seeds, just to name a few.
Have fun and work on your mindset
While weight loss is a demanding journey, you should still remember it’s important to have fun. Changing your lifestyle to slim down doesn’t have to be considered a punishment. The same goes for a healthy diet. For successful weight loss, it is necessary to work on mindset. We need to stop considering healthy lifestyle (and diet) punishments and unhealthy behaviors as rewards. Once we change the mindset, our approach to weight loss is more wholesome and results are more pronounced. Modifying your lifestyle doesn’t have to take out all the fun. You should still remember to let loose and try to enjoy your moments.
Changing mindset also comes with being more resilient. Obstacles are inevitable, but we need not give up when they occur or give up when making mistakes. Mistakes happen, but we should use them as learning opportunities. Turn failures into lessons and you’ll come out stronger every time.
Reward yourself when you achieve a specific goal and you’ll have even more fun on this journey.
Invest in a pedometer
Lack of motivation is the biggest reason behind unsatisfactory levels of physical activity in men and women. Pedometers can help with that. These gadgets give you a challenge and keep you motivated to increase physical activity levels on a daily basis. Studies show they do help facilitate weight loss (10). The best thing about pedometers is that you can sync them with your phone, track analytics, and create more challenges for yourself. You can see how many calories you burned, as well.
Junk food OUT
Junk food is high in calories, yet low in healthy nutrients. They are abundant in trans fats that may damage your cardiovascular health, too. Junk food isn’t satiating so you end up feeling hungry shortly after eating. Then you eat more and calorie intake is through the roof. Successful weight loss lies in a healthy diet that delivers all nutrients your body needs. For that reason, you should strive to reduce or avoid junk food. Nowadays you can find tons of recipes to make healthier versions of your favorite meals.
Keto diet isn’t sustainable for most people
The Keto diet has become a major trend lately, especially on social media where “influencers” swear by this diet and its effects on their figure. The main objective of the ketogenic (keto) diet is to enter the state of ketosis where the body uses fat for energy, not glucose. This type of diet can be beneficial for persons with insulin resistance and diabetes. While the keto diet can help you slim down, it’s not a sustainable eating pattern for most people (11). The Keto diet is too restrictive and difficult to keep up with for the long term.
Learn about your eating habits
The best way to benefit from a healthy diet is to identify strengths and weaknesses and fix them. We can’t know what to fix unless we get a deep insight into our eating habits. That’s where the food journal steps in. Keeping track of food intake, and even beverages you drink, allows you to analyze your eating patterns, determine its strengths, and pinpoint weaknesses that require fixing. Diet tracking can enhance weight loss and make it easier for you to keep it off (12). Your diet journal can be anything: regular notebook, notes on your phone, food journal app, or downloaded and printed templates. Determine when to evaluate your food intake e.g. on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.
Mindfulness in eating is often overlooked. You see, mindful eating focuses on your sensual awareness of food and experience with it. When you practice mindful eating, you don’t rush to get everything off the plate. You focus on every bite as well as flavors and scents. Evidence confirms mindful eating is a good approach to weight control (13). To practice mindful eating you should start by eliminating all distractions. Don’t use your phone or watch TV when eating. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. When you’re full, stop eating. There is no need to feel obliged to eat everything off the plate.
Nighttime snacking is a common pitfall for many people who are trying to slim down. We usually reach for junk food, which only boosts calorie intake that day. To fix this problem, you should avoid eating after dinner. Or, if you simply need to eat something, opt for low-calorie foods which will not jeopardize your weight loss (14). Healthy late-night snacks are berries, kiwis, hummus and whole grain crackers, oatmeal, or pumpkin seeds.
Own a cookbook
As seen throughout this post, diet modification is a major part of a successful and sustainable weight loss. However, one question still remains – what to eat? A common belief is that a well-balanced diet is too restrictive and expensive to follow. Not true, though. A healthy diet is versatile (not fad diets!) and there are plenty of options for you to make, without spending too much money. That’s why you need a good cookbook regardless of the format (online, regular book, kindle, etc). Cookbooks can help generate ideas and you can use them as an inspiration to create your recipes with healthy ingredients. Plus, they can make the whole weight-loss endeavor a lot more fun.
A growing body of evidence confirms high protein intake induces favorable changes in body composition and provides improvements in appetite, cardiometabolic risk factors, weight management, and other health outcomes (15, 16). Protein can promote a feeling of fullness and give you energy for your workouts. Make sure to consume protein-rich foods.
Quit bad habits
Certain habits may jeopardize weight loss. For that reason, it may be useful to strive to quit or alter these behaviors. Some unhealthy habits include smoking, drinking carbonated beverages, distracted eating, chewing quickly, skipping meals, forgetting your diet in restaurants, using exercise to compensate for unhealthy eating, among others. Fixing these bad habits is easier than you think, as you adopt a more mindful approach to weight loss.
While exercise is crucial for weight loss, in addition to a healthy diet, you shouldn’t forget to rest and recover. In fact, recovery is equally important as a good workout session. That’s where muscles and tissues repair. It’s also good for your mindset as it emphasizes the sense of achievement. On your rest days, you should strive to do something that makes you happy. Self-care is important.
Supplements can help
Dietary supplements can be useful allies on your road to weight loss. They deliver nutrients and compounds we don’t obtain in sufficient amounts from the diet. However, if you decide to take supplements you may want to consult your doctor or buy from reputable brands. Keep in mind supplements are not replacements for lifestyle changes. So, don’t rely on them to do all the work.
Turn on your metabolism
Slow metabolism is a common problem for men and women who are trying to slim down. Your body doesn’t burn calories as quickly as it should so it’s difficult to achieve the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. To accelerate metabolism you should exercise regularly, drink green tea or coffee, drink cold water, do HIIT, and get enough sleep.
Up the intake of whole grains
Whole grains are a rich source of fiber. They support weight loss by improving gut health and suppressing your appetite (17). Whole grains can increase the loss of calories by lowering the number of calories that you retain during the digestion process. Also, they’re good for your metabolism.
Volumetrics focuses on the consumption of foods that are high in volume and low in calories. This approach is not about deprivation, you shouldn’t feel hungry. Instead, volumetrics is the art of carefully choosing foods that will suppress your appetite and prevent overeating, without boosting your calorie intake. Foods that fit into this approach include fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, poultry without skin, fiber-rich cereals, low-fat fish, just to name a few.
Work on stress management
Stress management can help you decrease your BMI (18). That happens because stress depletes energy levels, makes you eat more, and decreases motivation to exercise. All these things lead to weight gain or jeopardize your weight-loss journey. By managing stress you can support your weight loss and improve mental health.
eXpel the excuses
Excuses – everyone’s got them, but they do nothing for us. We think of excuses when we fail to exercise or when we purposely eat something unhealthy. We also make excuses when we prolong our weight-loss endeavor. Changing your weight and living a healthy life requires taking responsibility for everything you do. Once you get rid of the habit of making excuses, you’ll see how proactive you are. Nothing will stop you from achieving your goals.
Evidence shows yogurt intake is linked to lower BMI, more successful weight management, smaller waist circumference, and lower body fat percentage (19). Not only is yogurt rich in proteins, but also delivers probiotics that improve gut health.
The importance of getting enough sleep is largely underestimated. Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain and obesity (20). Mechanisms behind this link include higher oxidative stress, glucose intolerance, insulin intolerance, higher stress levels, increased food intake, low energy. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Sleep quality and quantity contribute to weight loss (21).
Use these simple ABCs of weight loss to modify your journey and achieve your goals successfully. Simple lifestyle tweaks can help you lose weight and maintain it. Good luck.