Although many people want to lose weight, far fewer are successful at it. The reality is that weight loss, which requires behavior changes in eating and exercising, is difficult, particularly in the United States where we are surrounded by high-fat, sugary foods amidst sedentary lifestyles.
However, weight loss is indeed possible, provided that you have a plan and are consistent with it over time. While there are many gimmicks for weight loss – from pills and shakes and exercise machines and more – most of these quick fixes are not healthy or sustainable.
Since an overwhelming amount of information exists regarding the best ways to lose weight, finding the right program can seem to be a monumental challenge. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. The basics of effective weight loss programs remain the same: eat less and move more to burn calories and body fat.
Tips on how to begin your weight loss program at home:
- Do your homework — Before beginning a diet, keep a food log for one-two weeks, writing down everything you eat, portion size and time. Plug this into an app or online program, or consult with a dietitian to determine your daily caloric intake. Then calculate how many calories you should be eating instead to lose 1-2 pounds per week, which is the recommended amount. Dropping more weight than this each week typically is water weight, which often is regained later.
- Know your numbers – Because one pound is 3500 calories, to lose one pound each week, you have to create a 500-calorie deficit each day. Some of this deficit can come through diet (250 calories/day) and some through exercise (250 or more calories/day). Set a target weight so you know what you are working toward, and be realistic.
- Follow a healthy eating plan – The best weight loss plans reduce or eliminate high-fat, high-sugar and highly processed foods, and replace them with lean meats, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Clean out your pantry to decrease temptation, and stock up on nutritious choices. You may want to try a diet plan such as Weight Watchers that makes it simple to select foods that will keep you within your caloric limits for weight loss.
- Watch your beverages – Many of us don’t pay attention to the calories in what we drink – and they can add up if you’re consuming juices, soda, alcohol, smoothies, sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks and more. Substitute water whenever possible, or low or zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee, tea or seltzer water. Being properly hydrated can help increase your metabolism and keep your hunger at bay.
- Do cardio workouts consistently — To burn more calories, move more throughout the day and exercise regularly. Do cardiovascular exercise – including steady state and interval training – 4-6 days per week for at least 30-60 minutes. Check online or talk to a personal trainer to determine your target heart rate range for the most effective workouts.
- Strength train – Working against resistance such as weights and elastic bands conditions the muscles, creates a leaner, toned look and boosts your metabolism. With greater muscle mass, you burn more calories all day long – even at rest. Hit the weights and work the major muscle groups at least 2-4 times each week.
- Don’t give up – Even if the scale isn’t budging, you miss a workout or splurge on a meal, don’t let that derail all your efforts. Don’t beat yourself up, but vow to continue your plan immediately. Refuse to let any setbacks interfere with your perseverance.