10 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight in 2009
Kick the diet mentality!
-Jeannie Gedeon, MPH, RD
Betty’s New Year, New You Series is dedicated to making 2009 your best year ever. Find more articles in the series below.
While losing weight tops the list of most common New Year resolutions, diet plans are often scrapped by the second week of January. Your best bet for getting to a healthy weight – and staying there – is to kick the diet mentality.
Maintaining good intensions is not easy – most people have unrealistic expectations, such as deciding to change eating patterns all at once or severely cutting calories for quick weight loss, which leads to deprivation-driven eating and may leave you feeling like you’ve failed. New eating patterns take time to achieve, especially when there is a long history of less-than-optimal eating habits.
Your sure-fire plan for success in 2009:
1. Think long term. If you want to achieve your goals this time, get in the mindset of making a permanent life improvement rather than a temporary conviction. Having a detailed plan and monitoring your progress will increase your success rate. Goals should be reasonable and focused. Expect that obstacles, setbacks and triggers will happen, such as not liking the diet you chose, not seeing the scale go down or having some kind of negative stress surface. Strategize for, modify and cope with what isn’t working and what gets in your way, rather than going back to the old habits.
2. Focus on a healthier lifestyle. People who change their attitudes and feelings about food are the ones who keep the weight off for good. When food has too much power over your life and self-image, too much thought is spent on eating, food, body and weight (and you have more interesting things to think about!).
3. Nourish your body with carbohydrate, protein and fat at each meal. Because of the different rates of digestion and absorption of these nutrients, this combination lengthens feelings of satiety (fullness) and avoids feelings of deprivation and the urge to overeat.
4. Always eat breakfast. It prevents drops in blood sugar levels, which lead to poor food choices later in the day, jump starts your metabolism, and helps start the day feeling like you’re taking care of yourself, setting a positive tone for the day.
5. Never restrict. This includes cutting too many calories, as well as skipping meals and snacks, which slows metabolism and leads to preoccupation with food. The best plan to get the metabolism furnace burning is to eat every three hours, making sure not to let more than four hours go by without eating. Undereating and waiting too long can zap energy and lead to overeating: To avoid overeating, you need to feel comfortable and satisfied, not starving!
6. Eat your favorite foods in moderation. If you tell yourself you can never have cheesecake or French fries again, what happens? You have to have it! Find a way to work favorite foods into your diet, think proportion, and savor without guilt – having an occasional treat is not a character flaw.
7. Keep a food journal. Monitor your food intake by writing down when, what and how much you eat. With a tangible record of what you eat, it’s pretty easy to see where improvements can be made and helps you learn from experience.
8. Make fitness a permanent part of your life. Exercise is the strongest predictor of ability to lose weight and maintain that loss. Commit to a combination of aerobic exercise to burn fat and strength training to build muscle to optimize metabolism. Keep the incentive by choosing activities that you love (or at least look forward to). And remember, exercise also reduces stress and releases endorphins that make you feel better – which makes you more likely to do other things to take care of yourself, such as eating nutritious foods.
9. Give yourself time. You didn’t become overweight overnight. Countless studies show that to keep weight off permanently, you should aim to lose no more than an average of 1 to 2 pounds/week. If you lose too quickly, your body will balk and try to recoup the loss (think homeostasis). Managing your weight, like any lasting habit, takes time. Devote time to health and fitness and your body will respond.
10. Reward yourself. As you attain your goals, indulge yourself just a little – buy the book you’ve been wanting to read, take a mini-vacation. Rewarding yourself with positive reinforcements will strengthen your resolve and increase your momentum.