It is often said that losing weight is all about numbers: more calories have to be consumed than consumed. But it is not that easy. In this article there are some tips that can help you lose excess pounds and then maintain your healthy weight permanently.
Do you want to lose weight sustainably? Then actively choose healthy habits, not just in terms of diet, but also in terms of physical activity and your mental health. This is what several experts recommend in an article by the Cleveland Clinic (USA).
Eat when you are hungry
“Listening to your hunger works much better than relying on willpower,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp. “When you’re tempted to overeat, talk to yourself: Are you feeling hungry, bored, or emotional? Does eating now bring you closer to your goal?”
Kopp recommends imagining a “hunger scale” from 1 to 10 – where 1 is hungry and 10 is so full that you can’t imagine eating another bite. “You never want to be at the extreme end of the hunger scale,” she says. “The goal is always to be somewhere between 4, 5 and 6.”
And even if you can’t yet break away from less-than-great food choices, listening to your hunger can help you lose weight in a passive way.
Pay attention to how (and when) you eat
“When you pay attention to what you eat, you become more aware of your choices and eliminate the ‘oops, did I eat the whole bowl?’ behavior,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.
Do you love pouring cereal straight from the box into the bowl? “In the end you get two to three servings – and two to three times the number of calories,” adds Kopp. Instead, measure out one portion at a time. The serving size can be found on the nutrition label.
“It sounds simple, but taking a minute to read the label will make a big difference in your decisions,” says Dr. Albers.
Another tactic is to avoid consuming calories too late. “Try to consume the majority of your daily calories before you sit down to relax for the night,” advises Kopp. “Many of us tend to overeat without thinking about it while watching TV after dinner.”
Prefer water over sugary drinks
It’s easy to overlook the calories that drinks contain. Reducing or eliminating sugary and high-calorie sodas, juices, sweet tea and milkshakes can make a real difference in your weight. Additionally, water is a drink that actually helps you lose weight while maintaining adequate hydration.
And hydration is key to weight control. “Sometimes we respond to thirst signals by eating – even though our body actually wants water,” explains Dr. Albers. “It’s easy to confuse our thirst and hunger signals or to override thirst signals.”
If you’re not sure whether you’re overriding your signals, try drinking some water before eating. Drinking water makes you feel full and changes it.
“Studies have shown that people who drink water before eating eat less during a meal,” shares Dr. Albers with. “Adequate hydration helps with digestion, nutrient absorption, regulates appetite hormones and reduces inflammation. All of this is key to controlling your hunger and eating mindfully.”
Choose foods that leave you full, not hungry
By reducing or eliminating processed foods (like cookies, baked goods, fast food) and high-fat foods (like cheese, anything fried) you will get closer to your goal weight.
“Processed foods often contain ingredients that stimulate the dopamine center in your brain and leave you wanting more,” explains Dr. Albers. “They are designed to have an addictive effect on the brain.”
Instead, focus on nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein and fiber. Both keep your digestive tract active, provide additional energy and lift your mood.
“To increase your fiber content, which is good for your digestive system and makes you feel full, add non-starchy vegetables and/or a small salad to lunch or dinner or both,” says Kopp.
Burn more calories through exercise
Exercise guidelines for weight loss are all about trying to burn more calories than you already consume on a regular basis.
“Doing up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise at least five days a week is generally a good start because it’s good for your heart,” says exercise physiologist Katie Lawton. “But it doesn’t always result in weight loss. Sometimes you have to train more.”
If your current exercise program focuses on cardio, incorporating strength training can help you lose body fat. Strength training builds muscle, which increases metabolism and makes fat burning more efficient. Another benefit of strength training is that it can burn calories for up to 24 to 36 hours after your workout.
Also remember: a poor diet cannot be replaced by exercise. So if you want to get the most out of your effort in the gym, you should also combine your physical activity with a nutrition plan that nourishes your body healthily.
Getting enough sleep is the key to losing weight. That’s because fatigue increases your appetite as hunger hormone levels rise.
“No one can make mindful food choices when they are tired. Even missing an hour of sleep can increase your appetite because your body craves energy and food to fuel it,” explains Dr. Albers. “It takes a clear, focused mind to make healthier food choices.”
Your stress level is also important. Dr. Albers notes that 75 percent of food intake is triggered by emotion, not hunger.
“Many people have lost weight simply by reducing their stress and finding ways to calm themselves without food,” she adds. “If your stress levels are high, stress management techniques are key and a necessary first step before making any changes to your diet.”
Don’t know how to reduce your stress? Try yoga or other meditative practices.
Give yourself time
How long does it take to lose 10 pounds? On average, it’s safe to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week with the help of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Losing 10 pounds in a week can actually be harmful in the long run.
Therefore, if you find that you are losing weight more quickly and/or in shorter periods of time, you should seek medical advice to find out how best to achieve your weight control goals. And that’s true even if you don’t lose any of your intended weight.
And: “Remember that weight does not define health,” encourages Dr. Albers. “You can be healthy and happy at any weight, and the number on the scale does not determine your worth or success. It is more important to focus on nourishing the body, engage in regular physical activity, and adopt mindful eating habits.” (ad)