Jump-Start Your Weight Loss Today!
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What It Takes to Lose Weight
Losing weight is all about numbers: You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound. That could be eating a little less or exercising a little more -- we've covered both strategies in this story.
Read on for 25 easy solutions you can start today. From conquering your cravings to rewarding your victories to simple ideas, such as using chopsticks to slow down, we'll help you reach your healthy weight without sacrificing your lifestyle.
Make Every Step Count
Daily physical activity is essential to losing weight and keeping it off. Marty Irons, R.Ph., CDE, says a pedometer is great for measuring your progress in a fun way.
Try It Now: Using your pedometer, track the steps you currently take and add 200 per week until you reach 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles). Joanne Gallivan, M.S., R.D., recommends using the National Diabetes Education Program's free food and activity tracker, which you can order online.
Record What You Eat
People who keep records of the foods they eat tend to lose twice as much weight as people who don't list what they eat, says Marion Franz, M.S., R.D., L.D., CDE.
Try It Now: In a journal or food diary, keep track of the foods and portions you eat. For a more in-depth look, record calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrate, too. Then schedule an appointment with a dietitian to develop a healthful eating plan that will help you slowly trim those excess pounds. For most people, losing 1-2 pounds a week is a sensible goal.
Eat Before Grocery Shopping
Filling your cupboards with bad-for-you treats bought on the fly can break your willpower when a mid-afternoon craving hits. Start at the source by eating a healthy snack before you go food shopping. That way you'll feel full and less vulnerable to cookies or other bad choices at the supermarket.
Try It Now: While writing your grocery list this week, enjoy a cut-up apple. Then head to the store feeling full and satisfied (you may even be able to pass up the free samples in the aisles).
Call on a Friend
People who recruit family and friends to join them in eating better and exercising are more likely to continue the new habits over time, says Fred Williams, M.D., FACP, FACE. A friend can also help you overcome hurdles that you may face on the road to losing weight.
Try It Now: Get in touch with a friend or family member who would be a great weight loss cheerleader. Plan to check in with your friend several times a month to discuss your progress, celebrate victories, and brainstorm ways to meet challenges. Even better, encourage your weight loss partner to participate in making healthier choices, too.
Overcome Emotional Eating
Eating when you're stressed, angry, excited, or bored -- rather than physically hungry -- can be a major cause of weight gain. Paul Ciechanowski, M.D., M.P.H., suggests jotting on paper your personal ABCs of eating behaviors:
- A = Antecedent, or the trigger to overeat. I feel anxious.
- B = Behavior, or the action taken after a trigger. I'm going to eat chocolate to feel better.
- C = Consequence, or what happens as a result of your behavior. Now I feel guilty.
Try It Now: Along with recording the foods you eat in your journal or food diary, include how you feel when you eat, paying attention to the ABCs. Reflect on your own comments or share them with a dietitian. Do you tend to eat more or eat less healthfully in emotional situations? The next time you experience the emotion, try going for a walk, calling a friend, or distracting yourself in another way that doesn't hurt your weight loss plans.
Read Food Labels
Ever stop to check out that nutrition facts label on your food? You should. These labels point out calories, fat, carbs, and more. The serving size is especially important -- if you eat 10 crackers instead of the recommended six, you're getting more calories than you may be calculating.
Try It Now: Grab a box of cereal or another pantry item from your kitchen. Take time to look over the nutrition label, considering all of its elements, including the ingredients. Familiarize yourself with what you're eating.
It really is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps people to eat less later in the day, says James Hill, Ph.D. A morning meal also can kick-start your metabolism so your body burns calories at a higher rate.
Try It Now: Try one of these delicious recipes from Diabetic Living.
Enjoy Fruit for Dessert
Take advantage of in-season fresh fruits -- and cut calories -- by choosing fresh fruit for dessert instead of heavier fare. Chris Smith, The Diabetic Chef®, heightens the flavors of juicy, ripe, in-season fruits with a splash of citrus juice or pinch of fresh herb, such as mint, for terrific taste without calories. He also savors his occasional desserts by eating slowly and enjoying every bite.
Try It Now: If ripe summer melons are a favorite, know that you can eat slightly more watermelon (1-1/4 cups) than any other type of melon (1 cup) for each fruit serving. Cantaloupe is a very good source of vitamins A and C and potassium.
Brush Your Teeth
It may sound silly, but that minty fresh feeling can keep you from sneaking into the refrigerator for leftovers. It's a mental trigger that when we brush our teeth we aren't going to eat right away. In the morning, for instance, you brush your teeth right after breakfast, signaling that you've just had a meal and won't need to eat again for a while.
Try It Now: After dinner tonight, brush your teeth immediately. Note how the minty feeling makes you feel satisfied and done eating for the night. Many people take toothbrushes to work to get the same sensation during the day.
Portion Your Snacks
Snack time is one of the worst times for keeping portions under control. It's too easy to eat a whole bag of chips that's meant to serve several people, says Jeannette Jordan, M.S., R.D., CDE. And those extra calories can really add up. An extra handful of potato chips (about 1/2 cup) can tack 150 calories onto your day. Do it every day and in three months, you'll have gained almost 4 pounds from the extra chips alone.
Try It Now: Package your snacks into 1?2-cup portions so you won't be tempted to eat more than you intend. Or stock up on packaged 100-calorie snack packs of crackers, cookies, and snack mixes.
Fill Up on Water
Much of the time that you feel hungry, you're actually dehydrated. Comfort your body with water by keeping a glass with you between meals and during meals. Water-base foods (such as juicy fruits and dairy) can help you feel full as well.
Try It Now: Drink a glass of water with your lunch. Note how it affects your hunger throughout the afternoon. If you start craving a snack midday, drink a glass of water first. If you're still hungry, you'll know it isn't dehydration.
Gum can give you the same minty-fresh feeling you get from brushing your teeth. In addition, gum gives you the sense of chewing, which is associated with eating.
Try It Now: Have a pack of sugar-free gum available in the spot you're most likely to snack -- whether it's a workplace drawer, the car, or your pantry at home. Grab a stick of gum the next time you have a craving.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Inadequate rest seems to promote weight gain. One study found that women who slept five hours per night were more likely to gain weight than those who slept seven hours a night. The body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates is reduced with fewer hours of sleep, which experts say can lead to an increase in body fat and higher levels of insulin. To get a more restful night's sleep, Paul Ciechanowski, M.D., M.P.H., recommends cutting down on caffeine, fatty foods, and alcoholic drinks.
Try It Now: During the holiday season, getting a good night's sleep can be especially tough. Make a point to establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Thirty minutes before lights out, turn off the TV and other attention-grabbing devices. Choose an activity that makes you feel peaceful and calm, such as reading a book, writing in a journal, meditating, or taking a bath. The structure around bedtime will eventually get your body (and brain) in the habit of settling down for sleep.
Choose Light Beverages
Calorie-heavy soft drinks, coffee drinks, fruit juice, and alcoholic beverages can pack on pounds if you're not careful. Opt for water and sugar-free beverages most of the time, recommends Jeannette Jordan, M.S., R.D., CDE. Limit juice to a 4-ounce glass and milk (low-fat) to 8 ounces at a time. And sweeten coffee and tea with a low-calorie sweetener instead of sugar.
Try It Now: Instead of reaching for a regular soft drink, try a diet soda instead to save 140 calories or more, depending on the drink. Or better yet, choose water. Miss the fizz? Try seltzer or sparkling water with a sprig of mint.
Wait 20 Minutes to Eat
Your brain needs 20 minutes from the time you eat to register that you're full. Waiting that little bit can help you pass up seconds or dessert. You'll feel just as satisfied, but you'll consume fewer calories.
Try It Now: At home, set a timer for 20 minutes after a healthy meal. Note how you feel right after putting down your fork and how you feel when the timer goes off.
Exercising in the morning kick-starts your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. Plus, by exercising early you're more likely to fit it into your schedule, and you'll have more energy for the rest of the day, says Fred Williams, M.D., FACP, FACE. Studies also have shown that early physical activity helps boost brain function so you think more clearly.
Try It Now: Set the alarm 15 minutes earlier for tomorrow morning. Give yourself 5 minutes to get dressed, then head out for a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood.
Been doing a good job getting extra exercise? Reward yourself! A new pair of running shoes can help you feel great about your success and motivate you to keep it up. In addition, looking forward to a reward makes the process a personal challenge rather than something you dread.
Try It Now: Set a goal to accomplish this month -- 30 minutes of exercise each day, for example -- and track your progress. Pick a reward for accomplishing the goal, and keep it in mind as you get closer to it.
Practice Saying No
At parties and social events, you'll be surrounded by food you can't control. Instead of sabotaging your weight loss goals by overindulging (or avoiding the event altogether), be prepared to select just one of an item and fill your plate with healthier foods whenever possible.
Try It Now: Imagine being at a party and what you'll do when faced with the buffet of treats. For example, say to yourself: "I'll have one small slice of my favorite kind of pizza, and then I'll enjoy the party by chatting with friends." That way you'll be ready to enjoy the occasion.
Use Chopsticks to Train Yourself to Eat Slower
It may sound quirky, but Virginia Zamudio Lange, R.N., M.S.N., CDE, finds that eating with chopsticks slows her down enough that she eats less overall. Studies show that people who eat slower tend to weigh less than people who eat quickly, most likely because eating slower gives your brain a chance to recognize messages from your stomach that it's full.
Try It Now: To eat at a slower pace during your next meal, try using chopsticks. If that feels too daunting, start with a snack such as popcorn, which is a great chopstick-training food. If you're still struggling, use a fork but place it on your plate between bites. Don't pick the fork up again until you've chewed and swallowed.
While all exercise helps you burn calories, strength training in particular helps jump-start your metabolism so you burn more calories at rest or during activity. About 20-30 percent of the calories you burn are determined by your muscle mass.
Try It Now: Keep hand weights in convenient spots in your house. During TV commercials, do some bicep curls and lifts. Try to sneak in at least two days of strength-building exercises each week.
Display Your Fat Photos
Your desire to lose weight may be motivated by a particular photo you saw of yourself -- one of those so-called "fat photos." Why not use it as motivation? Every time you see it, you'll be reminded of why you made these healthy weight goals. In addition, you'll see your progress as you drop pounds and feel healthier.
Try It Now: Print an unflattering photo of yourself and keep this "before" shot somewhere you'll see every day, such as on (or in) the refrigerator or a more private spot on your vanity.
De-Stress Your Life
Under heavy stress, your body tends to store calories and conserve weight -- two things you definitely don't want if you're trying to drop pounds. Taking stress out of your day can help you focus on the positive changes you're making.
Try It Now: De-stressing doesn't have to be complicated: Try a yoga class, use deep breathing, spend time with friends, write in a journal, or listen to music.
Do Basic Housework
Keeping yourself busy around the house not only makes for a clean kitchen, it can help you burn extra calories. Simple activities such as folding laundry, working in the garden, and doing dishes add up quickly.
Try It Now: For a person who weighs 160 pounds, 30 minutes of the following activities can sneak calorie-burning exercise into your day:
- Cooking dinner: 96 calories
- Ironing: 190 calories
- Taking out the trash: 120 calories
- Vacuuming: 196 calories
Eat a Bowl of Soup Before a Meal
It's a common claim that may seem too good to be true, but it's legitimate: People who enjoy a bowl of soup before a meal tend to eat fewer calories during the meal. Soup -- which is largely liquid -- causes a feeling of fullness, so you're less likely to stuff yourself during the main course. Just go easy on high-calorie and high-fat cream-base soups; opt for a broth-base soup instead.
Try It Now: Order a soup as an appetizer before deciding on your main dish. Or prepare soup as a first course at your next family dinner; it will help the whole table feel satisfied.
Measure What You Eat
Understanding portion sizes can be a challenge, especially in this supersized world. One way to get a handle on true serving sizes is to measure your portions with measuring spoons, cups, or a scale, says Hope Warshaw, M.S., R.D., CDE, BC-ADM. It won't take long to recognize what a proper portion looks like, and you won't need to measure all the time. But an occasional spot check can help you stay on track.
Try It Now: Before you eat your next bowl of breakfast cereal, grab dry and wet measuring cups. If you keep track of diabetes exchanges as part of your meal plan, one serving of cereal is 1/2 cup and one serving of milk is 1 cup. How does this compare with the amounts you've been eating?