After trying numerous diets, pills, juice fads and other methods to lose weight, you may feel discouraged by the short-term nature of the results, or no results at all. Losing weight and keeping it off is best accomplished through a series of changes to your overall diet that you can maintain for life. Here are some positive changes that will help you reach and maintain a healthier weight.
- Eat several small meals throughout the day. Skipping meals or eating just a couple of large meals each day can slow your metabolism and leave you feeling sapped in between meals. By eating smaller amounts of food every two to three hours, your body never goes into “starvation mode,” in which it holds onto stored energy reserves (fat).
- Drink plenty of water. Having a glass of water before each meal can prevent overeating, and it ensures that you don’t snack mindlessly when you are actually thirsty. Strangely enough, drinking water prevents your body from holding onto excess fluids, too, which can make you feel bloated and inflate your weight by a few pounds. Above all, being adequately hydrated is crucial for your body to function properly.
- Eat plenty of lean protein. Protein is the building block of muscle and a vital source of energy, but the source matters. Beans, tofu, fish, nuts and poultry are relatively low in saturated fat but very high in protein. Cut back on the consumption of red meat, which is a good source of protein but contains higher levels of saturated fat.
- Choose whole grains over processed “white” carbohydrates. Whole grains take longer to break down in your digestive system, leaving you feeling full and satisfied longer. They also release sugar more slowly into your blood stream, keeping your blood glucose levels steadier. Switch white rice for brown, white bread and tortillas for whole-wheat, and regular pasta for versions made with wheat or even lentil and chickpea flours.
- Use saturated fats sparingly. Vegetable oils, butter, lard, and the trans fats found in processed foods like snack cakes contain loads of calories. Your body does need fat to function, but it should come from healthier sources such as nuts and nut butters, olive oil and avocados.
- Count your calories. Keeping a food journal or tracking what you eat with a smartphone app can help you monitor your diet and identify changes to make. Like many others, you may grossly underestimate the number of calories you eat in a day, but having the numbers in front of you gives you a more clear picture of your eating habits. To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn through exercise and your daily activities.
- Watch your portions. Portion control is one of the best ways to lose weight. Invest in a small food scale, measuring cups, and measuring spoons, and use them religiously for a couple of weeks. You may be surprised by how many servings a typical plate of pasta or rice contains! Within a couple of weeks, you will have a better grasp of appropriate portions and will be better able to eyeball them.
Your diet is undoubtedly the most important part of weight loss, but fad diets are unsustainable and sometimes dangerous. Use these tips to whip your eating habits into shape, and you will soon see your extra weight fall away for good.