12 Tips for Weight Loss
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The Benefits of Weight Loss
A body of scientific evidence suggests that even a modest amount of weight loss -- 10-15 pounds -- can make a big difference in managing diabetes. The key is to go about losing weight healthfully. Weight loss can yield sweet successes, including:
-- Lower blood glucose
-- Lower blood pressure
-- Improved blood fats (cholesterol)
-- Lighter load on your joints and feet
-- Easier movement and breathing
-- Increased energy level
Start Your Day with Breakfast
One surefire way to ruin your weight loss efforts is to skip breakfast. People who eat breakfast regularly tend to have a lower risk of weight gain compared with people who skip the meal, according to a 2007 British study of the dietary habits of more than 6,700 adults.
"Breakfast skippers tend to make up for those saved calories by eating more later in the day. The net result isn't weight loss. In fact, it's frequently weight gain," says Jill Weisenberger, R.D., CDE, a Virginia-based dietitian and certified diabetes educator.
When you eat breakfast, you can resist those midmorning vending-machine raids because your blood glucose levels stay more stable and your metabolism responds more favorably.
"Eating a balanced breakfast is a great way to start the day. It says right off the bat, 'Hey, I'm taking care of myself,'" Weisenberger says.
Stay Active to See Results
When you're trying to lose weight, it's easy to focus only on counting calories. But it's important to put down the calculator -- at least long enough to exercise. Exercise should be a major part of every weight loss and health maintenance plan. When you exercise regularly, you build muscle that burns more calories throughout the day.
For the best health and weight loss benefits, including improved blood sugar control and A1C levels, the American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week plus muscle-strengthening resistance training activities three times per week.
"After 3-1/2 weeks of weight loss, we lose 75 percent from fat and 25 percent from muscle if you aren't doing weight training," says Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE, a dietitian, exercise physiologist, and certified diabetes educator in Michigan.
Round Out Your Meal Plan
Sure, weight loss is all about math -- if you take in fewer calories than your body needs for fuel, you end up with an energy shortfall and weight loss. But studies show that a winning weight loss strategy includes enjoying all food groups. For example, a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when you add protein to breakfast while carefully counting calories, it results in increased feelings of fullness.
"A balanced diet helps you feel full and stay full, aiding your weight loss efforts," Weisenberger says. "It fuels your exercise, provides nutrients to fight disease, and is a whole lot more interesting, even if it does take more effort to eat a variety of foods." She suggests choosing from at least three food groups at each meal, including at least one good food source of fiber and one of protein.
Step on the Scale Weekly
When trying to lose weight, the number on the scale may weigh heavy on your mind. Although it's not true for everyone, many people find that stepping on the scale every day can be discouraging, especially if the result doesn't match your expectation.
Daily weigh-ins don't capture an accurate picture of your true weight, and it's easy to become obsessed over body fluctuations that can be caused by water retention. But that doesn't mean you should stop weighing yourself altogether.
Studies show that people who weigh themselves regularly have far greater success in weight loss. When you weigh yourself regularly, you make yourself accountable for those little splurges you might make during the week. So what's the right frequency for weighing yourself? "Weekly is good," says Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE.
Customize Convenience Foods
Frozen diet dinners seem like the perfect weight loss prescription -- a preportioned, low-calorie meal ready to pop in the microwave. However, diet dinners frequently are too skimpy on important nutrients to keep you satisfied until the next meal. Many diet dinners contain around 300 calories and as little as 7 grams of protein (about 1 ounce of meat) per serving.
According to Merrill, there is plenty of carbohydrate in most diet dinners, but many do not contain enough protein, which can increase your feelings of fullness. In addition, research conducted by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., of The Pennsylvania State University, points out that eating low-calorie, high-water foods -- such as fruits, vegetables, broth-base soups, and salads -- helps you feel more satisfied. If you're going to dine on a diet dinner, add one serving of very lean protein and a side salad to round out the meal.
Understand Weight Loss Claims
If weight loss were as easy as popping pills, we'd all be slim. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of hard work -- conscientious food choices and old-fashioned exercise -- to lose weight and keep it off. While many dietary supplements claim miraculous weight loss benefits, the science doesn't seem to support these claims.
"They are usually just diuretics, and many of them are all hype," Merrill says of weight loss supplements.
A recent review of popular weight loss dietary supplements conducted by ConsumerLab.com, an organization that conducts independent reviews of dietary supplements, found little evidence that they work.
Keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated as stringently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as drugs, and they are not required to prove their effectiveness or safety before they are marketed. Talk to your health care provider before taking supplements for weight loss.
Eat Carbs in Moderation
Carbs have been getting a bad rap for years. And perhaps with good reason, as many people load up on far too many refined carbohydrate sources, such as breads, snacks, and treats made with white flour and refined sugars. These foods offer low-nutrient carbs, which do little more than add unwanted calories to your diet.
You can enjoy carbs -- in moderation -- as long as you focus on nutrient-rich sources that are minimally processed. Think fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. You not only get to eat delicious foods that help you feel satisfied, but your body will benefit from an array of important nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
If you're a woman trying to lose weight, shoot for 30-55 grams of carbohydrate per meal. If you need a snack between meals, choose one with 7-10 carb grams. You might need more or less, depending on your size, age, and activity level.
Steer Clear of Fads
Detox diets: Celebrities swear by them as fast, "cleansing" ways to shed pounds. But how much evidence exists for this weight loss strategy? Dozens of detox diets that promote fasting, juicing, restrictive meal plans, or herbal supplements are making the fad-diet circuit, usually proclaiming benefits such as ridding the body of toxins and promoting weight loss. But most health experts remain skeptical about such detox diets.
"The body is a self-healing organism and self-cleansing organism. We just need to put the right foods in," says Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE.
Currently, Natural Standard, an organization that studies integrative medicine, does not support the idea that the body needs help cleansing itself. More important, many detox diets are inadequate in important nutrients that your body needs to function normally.
Drinking adequate fluids is important for body functions such as transporting nutrients, maintaining blood volume, and removing waste products -- but that's not all.
"Fluids help the belly stretch so the fullness signal can reach the brain, which takes 20 minutes, so it helps get a jump start," says Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE.
Fluid-containing foods -- such as fruits, vegetables, and broth-base soups -- can help you feel fuller so you eat less at a meal. How much fluid is enough? A little more than 11 cups a day for women and 15 cups a day for men, including the fluids you get in foods and beverages, according to the Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intake.
Choose Healthy Snacks
There are many low-calorie snacks awaiting your selection on supermarket shelves, poised to help your weight loss campaign. But some snacks may not be as helpful as they appear.
If you chomp down on a 100-calorie pack of cookies, what are you getting back for that 100-calorie investment? Not much! When you're cutting calories, it's important to make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-rich foods -- foods that contain important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE, says filling up on low-nutrient snacks instead of nutritious foods can rob your body of nutrients and vitamins that act as catalysts for the metabolic reactions in your body. Instead, choose a handful of almonds (about 14), a banana, or a 6-ounce yogurt.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Every successful weight loss program offers opportunities to enjoy some of your favorite foods. After all, a healthful eating plan should be for life, not something you go "on" or "off."
But if you splurge on special treats every day, you can sabotage your best intentions for weight loss. Lisa Merrill, R.D., CDE, suggests creating a "bank" of extra calories to make room for something you really crave -- whether it's a small slice of birthday cake or a glass of wine at dinner.
By cutting back on calories earlier in the day and making sure to squeeze in exercise, you can usually fit in a special treat of 100-200 calories. This is where individually portioned servings of cookies, chocolate, ice cream bars, and chips can come in handy so you don't overdo it.
Portion control is a powerful tool for losing weight and keeping it off. If you're doubling up on portions, you're doubling up on calories.
America's portion sizes have grown over the years. In fact, researchers have identified that the increase in portion sizes for some of our favorite foods, such as salty snacks, french fries, burgers, soft drinks, and Mexican dishes, is directly responsible for an increase in calories consumed and weight gain.
Merrill suggests keeping an eye on how much you're dishing up at mealtime. Here's a simple rule of thumb: Fill half of your plate with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with whole grains, and one-fourth of your plate with lean meat or other protein.