Consider these tips for weight loss to feel better both inside and out.
Almost half of all Americans are overweight and one-third are considered obese, which means they have a body mass index greater than 30. While many things can cause obesity, learning how to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise can help you lose weight and improve your overall health.
The journey toward achieving a healthy body weight is not a sprint, but a marathon. It requires examining unhealthy relationships with food and developing an effective exercise regimen. Signs of a positive relationship with food include being mindful of your body’s hunger cues and eating when physically hungry, not fixating on your weight and enjoying all food in moderation.
Your relationship with food
When first working with a patient, Samantha Villari, clinical dietitian for Mercy Health – Weight Management Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio, begins by asking what has worked well, or not so well, in the past, as well as their goals and motivations for losing weight. She finds that asking “what are you willing to change?” is helpful to start, then follows up with more detailed questions about eating habits, such as meal frequency, food choices and the types of drinks they often consume.
Once she is able to learn more about their current behavior, Samantha is able to make recommendations as part of an individualized plan. She suggests that people begin by working to lose one to two pounds a week because they’re often more successful.
That’s because people who adopt restrictive diets or follow dieting trends often find themselves unhappy with their results. To maintain weight loss achieved through a certain diet, you have to keep it up.
“Often patients who diet lose a good bit of weight but then gain it back, sometimes surpassing their initial weight,” Samantha says. “Slowly making lifestyle changes is often more manageable, as patients are gradually changing their habits over time and are more likely to maintain those habits long term.”
If your goal is to lose weight, develop a healthy eating plan that you can stick with for a lifetime. However, weight loss isn’t the only benefit of improving your diet. Having a well-rounded diet that provides your body with the key vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function well can help prevent or improve a number of medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer prevention.
However, Samantha stresses that there is no such thing as “good or bad food.” Food is food, and if consumed in moderation, should not elicit feelings of shame, stress or anxiety.
Here are a few healthy eating tips to get started with weight loss:
- Eat breakfast: About 78 percent of individuals who are successful with weight loss eat breakfast every day, according to the National Weight Control Registry. Eating breakfast keeps you from getting too hungry and overeating later in the day. For extra staying power, choose protein- and fiber-rich foods.
- Drink water: Not only does staying hydrated help your body’s metabolism function at its best, it also helps control appetite. Water is calorie-free, sugar-free and if you get it from the tap, it’s free!
- Fill up on low energy-density foods: Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water to help keep you full. They also provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. Keep your house stocked with these healthy choices because it’s easier to make good choices when you’re surrounded by them.
- Journal your daily food intake: There are many food and activity tracking apps and websites that make tracking calories easy. If those aren’t for you, try writing everything down in a notepad. Counting calories and macros by writing down what you eat forces you to think more about what you’re eating, which helps you keep yourself accountable.
- Monitor your progress: Weigh yourself daily, or at least weekly, and at the same time of day. Monitoring changes in weight helps you make corrections to your diet before things get out of hand.
Adding exercise into the mix
Regular exercise is essential for good health and will help you maintain a healthy body weight. However, exercise alone will not lead to significant and long-lasting weight loss. There is no way to out-exercise an unhealthy diet.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that most adults need the following amount of physical activity:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week
- Two to three days per week of resistance training
- Two to three days per week of flexibility training
- Two to three days per week of activities that focus on agility, balance and coordination, such as yoga.
However, the type of physical activity you choose is important.
“I encourage patients to explore different physical activities to find options they feel comfortable with and enjoy doing. This is key, as they’ll likely stop exercising if they don’t enjoy it,” Samantha says.
Even small changes can make a big difference. Samantha suggests adding in more movement overall throughout your day and building up to more activity. This can include gradually increasing the number of steps you take per day, parking further away, taking the steps instead of the elevator or finding fun things to do that involve moving your body.
Changing your diet and starting an exercise regimen can have a major impact on your entire life, but it also requires a lot of effort. Support from family, friends, health professionals and community groups can be very effective, as well as setting achievable goals can make or break success for some.
“Patients must combine the efforts of healthy eating and regular physical activity, as these go hand in hand to improve health and aid in weight loss,” Samantha says.
Looking for some professional help when it comes to food choices? Learn about the clinical nutrition services we offer at Mercy Health.