By Kathleen Goodwin, RD
For many people weight loss is a chronic endeavor. All too often the shedding of pounds is a temporary event followed by a steady regain of lost weight. Most popular diets are unsuccessful in the long run because they fail to address the multi-faceted nature of what successful, permanent weight loss entails. Luckily, research has revealed many invaluable strategies which can help increase your odds of permanent weight loss. While no single article can possibly cover this vast subject, we have provided links to excellent weight loss programs and books which are backed by clinical research, and can significantly help you in your quest. We also encourage you to browse through our hand-picked award links to learn more about the best strategies you can incorporate for long term weight loss success.
It's nothing new, but exercise is probably the most important predictor of whether you will succeed at long term weight loss and weight loss maintenance. In order for exercise to be helpful in weight loss, you should strive for a minimum of five 30 minute sessions per week. The good news is that recent research has shown that three 10 minute sessions in a day are as good as one 30 minute session. This helps many in combating the old "no time for exercise" excuse. Be certain to find something you enjoy. You'll be more apt to stick with it. Try walking with a friend, joining an intramural sports league, participating in outings with a group like The Sierra Club, or trying some classes at your local gym. Once you give exercise a chance, you will begin to enjoy its positive benefits on your psyche as well; you will literally become "hooked."
Having trouble getting a workout in? Why not try one of these Diet Channel recommended programs:
We chose to list this separately from the "exercise" category because of the significant weight loss benefits attached to weight training in and of itself. The basic equation is this: the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you will burn. This is why world class weight lifters must eat thousands of calories a day to maintain their weight. Muscle is active tissue, fat is not. Thus, muscle "burns" a significant number of calories each day for its own maintenance. In her book Strong Women Stay Slim, Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University researcher, showed that a group of women who followed a weight loss diet and did weight training exercises lost 44% more fat than those who only followed the diet. While aerobic activity can help burn calories, muscle's where it's at when it comes to giving your metabolism a significant daily boost even at rest.
Read Cardio and Strength Training: How do you create a balanced routine? to find out how best to pursue numbers 1 and 2 above in tandem.
Keeping a food diary can be a huge asset in successful weight loss. Devote some time each day to record what you have eaten and how much, your hunger level prior to eating, and any feelings or emotions present at the time. A food diary can provide a large amount of self-awareness. It can identify emotions and behaviors that trigger overeating, foster greater awareness of portion sizes, and help you discover your personal food triggers. Study any patterns that emerge from your food diary and identify where you may be able to make more healthful changes. A food diary provides an added benefit of keeping you focused on and committed to your goals. Start keeping a food diary today by printing our food diary.
Many people become more successful at long term weight loss when their motivation changes from wanting to be thinner to wanting to be healthier. Change your mindset to think about selecting foods that will help your body's health rather than worrying about foods that will affect your body's weight. The Food Pyramid offers a basic outline of the types and amounts of food you should eat each day to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal health.
All too often overeating is triggered by stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, depression and other emotions. Learning to deal with emotions without food is a significant skill that will greatly serve long term weight control. The Solution, a book and national program developed by Laurel Mellin, RD, helps participants to identify their eating triggers and respond to them without food. A research study showed that the participants in this program demonstrated a better rate of long term weight loss maintenance than those who simply diet and/or exercise and don't address behavioral and emotional issues. Chronic over-eaters and "emotional eaters" can be significantly helped by learning new behavioral skills such as those Mellin presents. You can also seek help with behavioral and emotional eating issues from a licensed counselor or psychologist in your area.
A big key in long term weight control comes from receiving encouragement and support from others. You can check to see if groups such as Jenny Craig offer programs and resources in your areas. You may also wish to check with your local hospital to see if their registered dietitian conducts group weight loss programs.
With the advent of "super-size" meals and increasingly huge portions at restaurants, our concept of normal serving sizes is a distant memory. Be mindful of the amounts of food you consume at a sitting. When necessary, divide your food in half and ask for a take home bag. It is all too easy to be a "plate cleaner" even when served enormous portions. Learn to pay attention to your hunger level and stop eating when you feel comfortably full, not stuffed.
Try to remember that "losing 15 pounds in two weeks" is nothing to celebrate. It is important to realize that the more quickly weight is lost, the more likely the loss is coming from water and muscle, not fat. Since muscle tissue is critical in keeping our metabolism elevated, losing it actually leads to a decrease in the amount of calories we can each day without gaining weight. Fat loss is best achieved when weight is lost slowly. Strive for a weight loss of no more than 1-2 pounds per week. One pound of weight is equivalent to 3500 calories. By making small changes like eliminating 250 calories a day from food and expending 250 calories a day from exercise, you can lose one pound (of mostly fat) per week. You can calculate how much time you need to exercise to burn 250 calories by clicking here. You can calculate your caloric needs by clicking here, and then subtract 250 from that number.
Did you ever notice that thin people take an awfully long time to eat their food? Eating slowly is one method that can help take off pounds. That's because from the time you begin eating it takes the brain 20 minutes to start signaling feelings of fullness. Fast eaters often eat beyond their true level of fullness before the 20 minute signal has had a chance to set in. The amount of calories consumed before you begin to feel full can vary significantly depending on how quickly you eat. So slow down, take smaller bites and enjoy and savor every tasty morsel.
We've known for some time that limiting high fat foods in the diet can be helpful with weight loss. That's because fats pack in 9 calories per gram compared to only 4 calories per gram from proteins or carbohydrates. To many, the message to limit fats implied an endorsement to eat unlimited amounts of fat-free products. Just to clarify, fat-free foods have calories too. In some cases fat-free foods have as many calories as their fat laden counterparts. If you eat more calories than your body uses, you will gain weight. Eating less fat will help you to lose weight. Eating less fat and replacing it with excessive amounts of fat-free products will not.
For more information on high-fat foods you should continue to eat, even when trying to lose weight, see the following article from TheDietChannel: Healthy and Fat? 5 High-Fat Foods You Should Not Avoid.
Click here for 8 more great weight loss tips!
Struggling with your diet? Click here for 6 reasons why we don't lose weight.
Before beginning any diet or fitness program, consult your physician.
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