Many people seek to lose weight, and often the easiest way to do this is to consume fewer calories each day. But how many calories does the body actually need in order to be healthy? This largely depends on the amount of physical activity a person performs each day, and regardless of this, is different for all people – there are many different factors involved, not all of which are well-understood or known.
Measure it: If you want to improve something, measure it. While a pedometer can seem utterly arbitrary, wearing one and holding yourself to a daily goal can lead to forming powerful habits. Fitbit devices also allow you to create an online account where you can track yourself against friends and co-workers, so you can push each other to exercise. The nice thing about measuring exercise rather than weight is one can become a habit that leads to the desired goal, whereas the other is a lagging and fluctuating indicator. Each day you do your daily exercise you will be aware of what you did and how it made you feel. And those who exercise may have slightly elevated serotonin levels which lead to improved satiety, diminishing hunger.
The Biggest Loser program has come under attack with recent revelations that its amazing, as-seen-on-TV results are both pharmaceutically assisted and likely to reverse. Living proof that the medical community’s understanding of weight loss is still evolving: The diet still stands in third place on US News’ & World Report’s list for Best Fast Weight Loss.
“The one trick I use now, which I should have been using all along, is the make dinner a no-carb meal. I’ll do a vegan protein and vegetables, and no bread. I think carbs are important and good energy, but when I don’t eat them at night, I wake up and I feel like my belly’s flat first thing in the morning.” — Carrie Underwood, who lost 30 pounds of baby weight in less than a year
Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., … Howell, A. (2011, May). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: A randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity (London), 35(5), 714–727. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017674/
The size of your plates and bowls may also have a lot to do with portion control. If you have large dinner plates, the temptation is there to fill them up. Try dining from a side plate instead, and eat slowly so your body has a chance to register that you're no longer hungry. Measuring cups are also useful. If you want a snack, allow yourself half a cup. Measure it into a bowl and don't refill. It's a lot easier to manage portions when you measure them.
Northwestern Medicine has joined the mix with FoodSwitch, which dubs itself “a nutritionist whispering in your ear.” As you grocery shop, the app allows you to scan an item’s bar code, pull up nutrition facts such as saturated fat, sugar, sodium and energy, and get its health rating based on a five-star scale. Finally, FoodSwitch will suggest healthier alternatives from its database of more than 268,000 products.
Beyond the occasional fidget, you can do simple things like taking the stairs and walking more to increase your overall daily calorie burn—no gym required. "Move as much as possible," says Cederquist. "Wearing a Fitbit or another type of activity tracker is helpful for people to realize just how little many of us move." Cederquist recommends hitting 10,000 steps a day every day for general health and well-being—no excuses.
Christy Brissette, MS, RD is one of North America's top dietitians and a leading nutrition and food communications expert. She is the President of 80 Twenty Nutrition, a nutrition and food media company. Her mission is to end food confusion and dieting once and for all. Christy appears on national TV and is interviewed for international magazines, radio and websites. She empowers her clients to look and feel their best with the healing power of healthy, delicious food. She helps clients achieve results through cutting-edge, creative and fun meal plans and recipes. You can still enjoy your favourite foods and have the body of your dreams!
At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year—or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does.
The least intrusive weight loss methods, and those most often recommended, are adjustments to eating patterns and increased physical activity, generally in the form of exercise. The World Health Organization recommended that people combine a reduction of processed foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt and caloric content of the diet with an increase in physical activity.
Commercial weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem and Diet Center, usually offer a 1,000 to 1,500 calorie diet and individual or group counseling. Though many individuals find long-term success with these programs, some participants still struggle with healthy weight-maintenance. In the past, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought action against some of these companies, challenging their weight loss and maintenance claims.
But the whole idea of fast weight loss may be the root of the problem. According to a Time expose on the subject: “When people are asked to envision their perfect size, many cite a dream weight loss up to three times as great as what a doctor might recommend.” An improbable and disheartening goal, and one that obscures the truth that losing small amounts of weight — even ten pounds — still has great health benefits.
Appetite-suppressant drugs and other diet pills:"Wonder" products that permanently reduce weight do not exist. Products that promise immediate or effortless weight loss will not work in the long run. Appetite suppressants, which often contain a stimulant like caffeine or hoodia, are associated with side effects including nausea, nasal dryness, anxiety, agitation, dizziness, insomnia and elevated blood pressure. Alli reduces fat absorption; following the package directions will reduce risk of side effects, which may include oily diarrhea and anal discharge. With any product, side effects may be worse if you exceed the recommended dosage.
If you're still feeling confused about how to manage your portions and how much of which types of food you should eat, a nutritionist can help. A nutritionist will give you information specific to your body and your dietary needs. Nutritionists are also great for telling you what foods you should absolutely cut out all together and where you might have room to cheat a little for favorites once in a while. They can also direct you on moderation. Dark chocolate and red wine, for example, have health benefits when consumed in moderation, even though chocolate and alcohol in general aren't very conducive to dieting. If you spike your blood sugar then when it crashes you will once again be hungry quickly. This is one of the reasons many nutritionists recommend low glycemic index diets with limited carbohydrate consumption.
A University of Vermont study found that online weight-loss buddies help you keep the weight off. The researchers followed volunteers for 18 months. Those assigned to an Internet-based weight maintenance program sustained their weight loss better than those who met face-to-face in a support group. These are 50 ways you can lose weight without a lick of exercise.
Processed, packaged foods are often loaded with more salt, sugar, and refined carbs than you’d put in the foods you cook for yourself. When you’re looking to drop weight fast, avoid foods that come in packages and stick to whole, unprocessed foods. (Here are the four most harmful ingredients in processed food.) Build your plates with non-starchy veggies, unprocessed whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and season with spices, not salt.
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
Even though you are eating well and exercising, you may reach a plateau where your weight stays the same. Plateaus are mainly due to decreased resting energy expenditure (REE). When you consume fewer calories, your REE decreases, thus your body's need for energy decreases. Keep exercising and eating well to help you get through periods with no weight loss. Sometimes a plateau is the body's way of saying that you may not need to lose more weight. If you are meant to lose more weight, eventually weight loss will come as your body's metabolism catches up with your new lifestyle.
Even if you manage to meet your goal, it probably won’t be sustainable: “The amount of restriction required will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct,” Dr. Seltzer says. What’s more, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, he adds.