Losing weight is the result of a simple formula of expending more calories than you take in. But amidst all the various regimens, conflicting information and unrealistic promises about what works best, the actual process isn’t quite so simple – particularly when we are surrounded by food everywhere and typically lead sedentary lifestyles. It takes knowledge, discipline and patience to shed pounds.
One pound is equal to 3500 calories, so you must create a 3500-calorie deficit to lose each pound. This is best accomplished through both diet and exercise, where you limit caloric intake and increase caloric expenditure. One common practice is to aim for a 250-calorie reduction in food intake and burn 250 calories through exercise daily.
A daily 500-calorie decrease amounts to 3500 calories per week, or one-pound.
While many of us prefer quick weight loss, experts recommend aiming for 1-2 pounds each week to stay safe and to keep it off. Losing more than that tend to be water weight, which you easily regain, and rapid weight loss can lead to health problems. Realistically, don’t just focus your efforts solely on diet or exercise, but combine the two in a smart program to slim down.
Exercise is important to burning calories, but diet is critical in driving results, so it’s important to follow a healthy eating plan. Many regimens exist, and you need to pick one that works for you. But as you evaluate your options, be smart in what you are seeking, and set yourself up for success.
Consider the following six ways proper nutrition can boost your weight loss:
- Maintain balance and health
Dieting the wrong way can lead to fatigue, irritability, low energy and even depression. Because by their very nature, diets represent restriction, change and deprivation, both the body and the mind can respond negatively. With extreme caloric deficits, the body loses energy sources and blood sugar plummets, which can result in exhaustion. With too little fluid intake, dehydration and headaches can result.
Because dieting is a test of willpower, we may feel frustrated and discouraged if we don’t follow the plan exactly, or if we “cheat” by eating something we shouldn’t. This can become a vicious cycle of falling off the plan, feeling like a failure, trying again and repeating the process.
Furthermore, being on a diet can impact your social life, whereby you no longer are enjoying happy hour drinks and appetizers, or you have to bring a salad to Friday pizza night or you skip lunches out at work. Naturally, this can leave you feeling isolated and resentful.
Proper nutrition can help you navigate the physical and emotional highs and lows that can accompany dieting. A balanced eating plan that incorporates fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and plenty of water will deliver a variety of nutrients that will keep you fueled and better satisfied. While some consistency makes a diet simpler, it’s not recommended to eat the same items every day. Ultimately, a broad mix of food options adds interest and motivation to stay on track.
- Sidestep common myths.
With so much conflicting information about diets, it can be difficult to know what to eat. A healthy eating plan enables you to bypass common myths such as the following:
- All carbohydrates are bad. While simple sugars, such as sweets, aren’t wise choices for weight loss, complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and whole grains, add valuable energy sources, and fiber that fills you up longer.
- Skipping meat is a good way to cut calories. Meat provides protein, iron and zinc, and can be part of a healthy eating plan. Choose lean cuts, trip off extra fat and limit portions.
- High protein is the best way to lose weight. Protein helps satisfy you and build muscles, but too much of can lead to kidney problems and other issues.
- Avoid skipping meals.
A proper nutrition plan recommends regular meals and snacks daily to keep your blood sugar stable and make it easier to be adherent. Skipping meals leads to intense hunger and actually slows down metabolism, as the body thinks it is starving and resorts to burning valuable muscle tissue as a fuel source. Muscle burns calories, and the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you need each day. Eating healthy choices each day will help the body burn fat instead, which creates weight loss while keeping your metabolism in check.
Furthermore, skipping meals can lead to binges, which generally includes unhealthy food choices and overwhelming portions, thereby adding pounds. Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast tend to make up those calories throughout the day and evening – and weigh more than those who eat breakfast.
- Enjoy powerhouse foods.
Lots of opinions about the “best” foods exist, but here are some common ones that fuel you, fill you up and keep your weight-loss efforts successful:
- Eggs – contain low-calorie protein and all of the essential amino acids
- Blueberries – source of antioxidants and fiber
- Kale – rich in fiber and vitamin A
- Quinoa – has high fiber and protein and won’t spike blood sugar
- Salmon – includes appetite-suppressing healthy fats
- Greek yogurt — high in protein and low in sugar
- Avocado – contains fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats
- Green tea – loaded with catechins that can boost metabolism
- Teach you healthy food swaps.
Being on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat your favorite foods sometimes, but with a good plan, you’ll learn smart swaps so that you can make the best choices for shedding pounds. Here are some good ones:
- Popcorn for chips
- Fresh fruit for dried fruit
- Hummus for ranch dressing
- Tea for coffee
- Nuts for croutons
- Salsa for cheese dip
- Baked sweet potato fries for French fries
- Dark chocolate for milk chocolate
- Frozen yogurt for ice cream
- Water for juice
- Foster a healthy relationship with food.
A sound eating plan can help you manage your relationship with food so that you can lose weight and maintain the loss, rather than gain it back and have to start all over again. With a proper diet, you should learn to see food as fuel, and experience how good nutrition improves your well-being and energy.
Ditch “good food, bad food” thinking and focus more on smart choices. In moderation, all f