Maintaining a healthy weight is hugely important for overall health. Being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk of developing many serious conditions, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. By reaching and maintaining a healthy weight you can lower your risk of developing these health problems. However, losing weight is easier said than done. Here are seven steps to successful weight loss to help you on your way to a healthier, more energetic life.
1. Create a Realistic Target
People who set their weight-loss goals too high end up feeling discouraged when they do not meet them, even if they have managed to lose a significant amount of weight. It is therefore important to set realistic goals that are attainable. For some people, that goal might initially be to stop gaining weight. They might progress from that to a goal to lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in one year. Whatever you decide, make sure it is realistic, and not setting you up for failure.
2. Create small step-by-step goals
Once you have decided on your overall goal, break it down into bite-sized, specific goals. Take it one step at a time. Allow yourself to achieve one small goal before you move on to another. For example, you might set a target to lose one or two pounds each week to reach your overall goal reducing your body weight by 5 to 10 percent in one year.
3. Develop a healthy eating plan
Instead of following a fad diet, create your own healthy eating plan. It should be something that you will be able to stick to for the long haul. The hardest part of losing weight is keeping it off. You will be far more likely to succeed if you develop a healthy eating lifestyle, rather than diet to lose weight and then revert to your old ways. You should ensure that your plan satisfies the following criteria:
(a) Provides a reasonable number of calories (no less than 1,200 per day for a man or 1,000 per day for a woman).
(b) Provides enough, but not too much, protein.
(c) Provides enough fat, but not more than 25-35% of your calories.
(d) Provides at least 100 grams of carbohydrates.
(e) Provides at least 20-30 grams of fiber from whole foods.
(f) Includes plenty of vitamins and minerals from a variety of food sources.
(g) Encourages permanent, realistic changes in lifestyle, including plenty of exercise.
4. Write it down
Make sure you keep a good record of what you eat, how much exercise you do, and how your weight changes. It is also useful to note your mood when you ate the food, and who you were with. That way you will be able to identify trends in your weight loss attempts, and make amendments to improve your chances of success.
5. Set a healthy, realistic calorie goal
People with a BMI of 35 or above are usually advised to reduce their daily calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories. Those with a BMI of 27 to 35 are advised to reduce their daily calories by 300 to 500. (You can calculate your BMI here). Generally, women seeking to lose weight should not reduce their daily calorie count below 1,000, and men should not reduce theirs below 1,200.
6. Watch your portion sizes
This is one of the biggest problems in the United States when it comes to weight gain and obesity – our portions are out of control. When trying to lose weight, it is particularly important to make sure your portion sizes are appropriate. Read nutrition labels, measure out a serving, and see how it compares to what you would normally eat. Try to become familiar with what constitutes a true serving size. You can also use smaller plates and bowls when eating, to give the illusion of more food. And most importantly, try to tune in to your hunger and satiety cues. Eat slowly, give your brain time to register that you are full, and stop eating as soon as you are satisfied. Clear the table right away so you are not tempted to pick at the leftovers on your plate. You might even want to go and brush your teeth. It can help stop you from wanting to eat more.
7. Chose nutrient dense foods
People who eat lots of energy-dense foods (high calorie – low nutrient) are more frequently overweight than people who eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods (low calorie – high nutrient). If you compare a snickers bar with a cup of raw spinach leaves, a snickers bar has around 250 calories but very few nutrients, whereas a cup of spinach has just 7 calories but is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Nutrient-dense foods like spinach often have a high water and fiber content as well, making you feel full for longer. When trying to lose weight, it is important to limit energy-dense foods, and focus on including plenty of nutrient-dense foods in your healthy eating plan.
The bottom line of weight loss is – find a realistic, pleasant, and healthy eating plan that you enjoy and can sustain. Try to focus on your health and not just the number you see on the scale.