Jump-Start Your Weight Loss Today!
What It Takes to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Losing weight is all about numbers, which means consuming fewer calories over time than your body burns -- regardless of how much carbohydrate, fat, and protein (your main sources of calories) in your diet. You can achieve this calorie deficit by eating a little less or exercising a little more. With tips on conquering your cravings and simple tricks such as using chopsticks to slow down how fast you eat, we'll help you reach and stay at your healthy weight without sacrificing your lifestyle.
Make Every Step Count
Daily physical activity is essential to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss. 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, RD, 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 account for what they eat, says Marion Franz, RD, LD, CDE.
Try It Now: In a journal, food diary, or mobile or online app, keep track of the foods and portions you eat. For a more in-depth understanding of your food choices and meals, record calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrate, too.
If you need additional help, schedule an appointment with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a healthful eating plan tailored to your health and weight loss goals.
Eat Before Grocery Shopping
Filling your cupboards with unhealthy treats that you buy on the fly can break your willpower when cravings hit. 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 high-sugar and high-fat choices at the supermarket.
Try It Now: Before heading out the door to the grocery store, grab an apple, go over your list, and inspect your pantry, jotting down anything you might need to buy.
Call on a Friend
People who recruit family and friends to join them in eating healthier 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 for you. 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 writing down 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 your health care provider, dietitian, diabetes educator, friend, family member, or members of a weight control support group. 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 efforts.
Read Food Labels
Ever stop to check out the nutrition facts labels on the foods you buy? You should. These labels list calories, fat, carbs, and much more. The serving size is especially important -- if you eat 10 crackers instead of the recommended six, you're consuming 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 the nutrients it provides, including the ingredients. Familiarize yourself with what you're eating and how much.
It really is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps people 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.
Enjoy Fruit for Dessert
Take advantage of in-season fresh fruits -- and cut calories -- by choosing fresh fruit for dessert instead of high-sugar or high-fat options. 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 has multiple servings, says Jeannette Jordan, RD, 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 or 100-calorie 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, as well fresh fruit and veggies that are simple to throw in a bag or cut up the night before.
Fill Up on Water
You may be able to satisfy your hunger by quenching your thirst. Keep a glass of water with you between meals and during meals. Foods that are high in water content, such as vegetables, fruits, milk, or yogurt, 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 another glass of water. If you're still hungry, choose a healthy snack.
Gum can give you the same minty-fresh feeling you get from brushing your teeth. In addition, gum gives you the sensation 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 carbohydrate 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. Opt for water and sugar-free beverages most of the time, recommends Jeannette Jordan, RD, 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 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 or slices of lemon, lime, or orange. Don’t have whole fruit at the ready? Add a splash of juice.
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 can help kick-start your day. This also is a great way to assure that you make time for exercise in your schedule. Last but not least, most people who exercise in the morning have more energy the rest of the day, says Fred Williams, M.D., FACP, FACE. Studies also have shown that early-in-the-day physical activity helps boost brain function so you think more clearly.
Try It Now: Set the alarm 20 minutes earlier for tomorrow morning. Give yourself 5 minutes to get dressed, then head out for a 15-minute walk around your neighborhood. Over time, increase the length of your walk.
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, RN, 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:
• Dusting: 120 calories
• 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 overeat 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: When eating at restaurants, 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 everyone 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 accurate serving sizes is to measure your portions with measuring spoons, cups, or a scale, says Hope Warshaw, M.M.Sc., RD, CDE. It won't take long to recognize what proper portions 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. Put the amount of cereal you think is the correct portion into your bowl. Then put this amount in the dry measuring cup. How did you do? Too much or just right? Pour the amount of milk you think is the correct portion into a glass. Then put this amount in the wet measuring cup. How did you do? How does this compare with the amounts you've been eating? Make adjustments to your portions as needed.