Make your weight-loss goals a reality. Follow these proven strategies.
You probably know that hundreds of different fad diets, weight-loss programs and outright scams promise quick and easy weight loss. But the foundation of every successful weight-loss program still remains a healthy diet combined with exercise. You must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits to lose significant weight and keep it off.
How do you make those permanent changes? Follow these six strategies.
1. Make a commitment
Permanent weight loss takes time and effort. It requires focus and a lifelong commitment. Make sure that you're ready to make permanent changes and that you do so for the right reasons.
No one else can make you lose weight. In fact, external pressure — often from people closest to you — may make matters worse. You must undertake diet and exercise changes to please yourself.
As you're planning new weight-related lifestyle changes, try to resolve any other problems in your life. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change your habits. So make sure you aren't distracted by other major life issues, such as marital or financial problems. Timing is key to success. Ask yourself if you're ready to take on the challenges of serious weight loss.
2. Get emotional support
Only you can help yourself lose weight by taking responsibility for your own behavior. But that doesn't mean that you have to do everything alone. Seek support when needed from your partner, family and friends.
Pick people who you know want only the best for you and who will encourage you. Ideally, find people who will listen to your concerns and feelings, spend time exercising with you, and share the priority you've placed on developing a healthier lifestyle.
3. Set a realistic goal
When you're considering what to expect from your new eating and exercise plan, be realistic. Healthy weight loss occurs slowly and steadily. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. To do this, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day through a low-calorie diet and regular exercise. Losing weight more rapidly means losing water weight or muscle tissue, rather than fat.
Make your goals "process goals," such as exercising regularly, rather than "outcome goals," such as losing 50 pounds. Changing your process — your habits — is the key to weight loss. Make sure that your process goals are realistic, specific and measurable, for example, you'll walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
4. Enjoy healthier foods
Adopting a new eating style that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. But decreasing calories need not mean giving up taste, satisfaction or even ease of meal preparation. One way you can lower your calorie intake is by eating more plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without giving up taste or nutrition. Cutting back on calories is easier if you focus on limiting fat.
To lose weight, talk to your doctor about setting these daily calorie goals:
|Your current weight in pounds||Daily calorie goal|
|250 or less||1,200||1,400|
|251 to 300||1,400||1,600|
|301 or more||1,600||1,800|
Very low calorie diets aren't a healthy long-term strategy. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,400 calories for men aren't generally recommended. If your calories are too low, you run the risk of not getting all of the nutrients you need for good health.
5. Get active, stay active
Dieting alone can help you lose weight. Cutting 250 calories from your daily diet can help you lose about half a pound a week: 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat. But add a 30-minute brisk walk four days a week, and you can double your rate of weight loss.
The goal of exercise for weight loss is to burn more calories, although exercise offers many other benefits as well. How many calories you burn depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of your activities. One of the best ways to lose body fat is through steady aerobic exercise — such as walking — for more than 30 minutes most days of the week.
Even though regularly scheduled aerobic exercise is best for losing fat, any extra movement helps burn calories. Lifestyle activities may be easier to fit into your day. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day. For example, make several trips up and down stairs instead of using the elevator, or park at the far end of the lot.
6. Change your lifestyle
It's not enough to eat healthy foods and exercise for only a few weeks or even several months. You have to include these behaviors into your life. To do that, you have to change the behaviors that helped make you overweight in the first place. Lifestyle changes start with taking an honest look at your eating habits and daily routine.
After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, try working out a strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts. Simply admitting your own challenges won't get you past them entirely. But it helps in planning how you'll deal with them and whether you're going to succeed in losing weight once and for all.
You likely will have an occasional setback. But instead of giving up entirely, simply start fresh the next day. Remember that you're planning to change your life. It won't happen all at once, but stick to your healthy lifestyle and the results will be worth it.
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