Shedding pounds and preventing them from coming back is a challenge. With all the diet and weight-loss plans out there, figuring out what method works best can be daunting. It all boils down to two major issues: eating right and exercising more.
Making dietary changes does not have to be expensive or time-consuming, and even busy people can find time for a daily workout. Consistency, discipline and persistence are the keys to success. Here are the main strategies that experts recommend.
1. Identify Bad Foods
Step One is to stop eating things that pack on the pounds. Canned, boxed and frozen meals loaded with processed sugar and saturated fats are major culprits. Sodas should be avoided not only because of their sugar content, but also to prevent the stomach bloating that they can trigger.
Moderation is advised for breads and other high-calorie foods. Salt promotes weight gain because it enhances the body’s retention of fluids. Dieters must confront their snacking compulsions, and stick to three balanced, moderate-sized meals per day. If hunger strikes between meals, fruit is a healthy option. However, eating just before bedtime leads to storing fat rather than burning it, because a person’s metabolism slows while sleeping.
Learning to read and understand the nutritional information on packages is crucial. Carbohydrates at high levels are bad because the body stores them as fat. It is helpful to eat a meal right before going to the grocery store, to curb impulse buying. Restaurants also can be threats to healthy eating, due to the high fat and sugar content in many of their meals.
2. Switch to More Nutritious Foods
A good rule of thumb is that fruits and vegetables should dominate the dinner plate, with smaller portions of meat and other items. Veggies with the most nutrients and fewest calories are the green, leafy varieties. Some of them, such as kale and spinach, burn fat. Avocados contain a sugar that limits the release of insulin, which causes fat to accumulate. Spinach, grapefruit and Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also help get rid of fat. Hot chilies and ginger boost metabolism, which reduces hunger pangs.
Staying healthy while losing weight requires consuming the necessary amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Failing to do so can result in illness or disease. Among the protein alternatives to red meat are fish, eggs, soy products, beans, nuts and whole grains.
3. Exercise Every Day
Working out, or at least taking vigorous walks, should be part of any weight-loss plan. The pounds will not go away unless the body burns more calories than it consumes. Cardio exercises, defined as those that elevate the heart rate for 20 minutes, are the most effective.
Those with physical limitations may instead take short walks, climb stairs, perform floor exercises or jumping jacks, do yoga or simple aerobics, or perhaps bicycle or swim. Some people take up tennis or golf. Others purchase exercise equipment such as a stationary bicycle, treadmill, elliptical trainer or weight machine. The best time to exercise is soon after eating a meal, to burn some of the newly acquired calories. The goal for most people should be 150 minutes of exercise per week.
The benefits of losing weight by eating right and exercising are not limited to looking and feeling better. Getting physically fit also lowers the risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and diabetes. Experts advise starting slow and having realistic expectations, but sticking to it.