To splurge or not to splurge? That is the perennial weight-loss question. Should you allow for occasional indulgences in your healthy-eating program, or say a firm “no” out of fear they will sabotage your results? Once you start a new regimen, it can be scary to stray from it. So how can you navigate the path of progress without veering into perfectionism? Here’s some professional counsel.
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Spoon Guru nutritionist Isabel Butler (MSc, ANutr) recommends that “the best way to reduce weight and maintain the weight loss is by simply eating a balanced and healthy diet, without refusing yourself particular foods… If you do cut out foods, you need to make sure your diet is still balanced and you are getting the nutrients your body needs from other sources.”
The "quality" of calories consumed is also important. There are different classifications of foods in terms of calories including high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods, and empty calories. Consistent with their naming, high-calorie foods are foods that are calorically dense, meaning that there are a high number of calories relative to serving size, while low-calorie foods have fewer calories relative to serving size. Foods such as fat, oils, fried foods, and sugary foods are examples of high-calorie foods. Being a high-calorie food does not inherently mean that the food is unhealthy however – avocados, quinoa, nuts, and whole grains are all high-calorie foods that are considered healthful in moderation. Low calorie foods include vegetables and certain fruits, among other things, while empty calories are calories that contain few to no nutrients such as added sugars and solid fats. Studies have shown that there is a measurable difference between consuming 500 calories of carrots compared to 500 calories of popcorn. As previously mentioned, this in part can be attributed to differences in how the foods are consumed and processed. Carrots require far more chewing and can result in more calories burned during digestion. Again, the mechanism for these differences is not fully defined, but simply note that for weight loss purposes, the general formula of calories in minus calories out determining weight gain or loss does hold, but that the number of calories on a nutrition label are not necessarily indicative of how many calories the body actually retains. While there is no clear-cut or ideal amount of macronutrient proportions a person should consume to maintain a healthy diet or lose weight, eating a "healthy" diet replete with a variety of unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, and lean meats is correlated with being healthier and more likely to result in sustainable weight loss. Also remember that calories from drinks comprise an estimated 21% of a typical person's diet. Many of these calories fall under the category of empty calories. While sodas are an obvious culprit, drinks such as juices and even milk have large amounts of sugar and should be consumed in moderation to avoid negating their nutritional benefits. Ideally a person should imbibe water, tea, and coffee without adding sugar in order to reduce calories gained from drinks.
You don’t have to stop eating all the things you like just to lose weight. Make small swaps to save calories here and there, and they'll add up—big time. Instead of a granola bar with 140+ calories and tons of added sugar, grab an apple for about 80 calories. Pick steamed rice and grilled chicken over fried rice and chicken. "You can also add vegetables to classic starch dishes to increase the water and fiber and lower the calories," says Cederquist. (Like swapping regular pasta for veggie noodles.) Cut out liquid calories by having primarily water, coffee, or tea instead of high-calorie coffee drinks. Baking? Reduce the amount of butter or sugar, or make healthy baking swaps like using apple sauce or Greek yogurt instead.
Think sweets are the enemy of weight loss success? Not so fast: dark chocolate might just be your best friend for weight loss (and that doesn't even include these other 5 Health Benefits of Eating Chocolate). Researchers at the University of Copenhagen fed healthy young men 100g of either milk or dark chocolate first thing in the morning, then had them rate their hunger level and fed them a meal of pizza two hours later. They found that the men who had dark chocolate were felt more satisfied after eating the chocolate, were less hungry, and ate less (17 percent fewer calories than the milk chocolate eaters) when offered pizza at their next meal.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
In such cases, the first step is to turn inward and ask some questions. “‘What am I really hungry for?’ Perhaps you need a hug or a word of encouragement from a friend instead of that piece of leftover chocolate pie in the refrigerator,” she says. Perhaps you need to bust out of a stressful job, destructive relationship, or self-abusive attitude to make your health and well-being a priority.
People who are overweight gain extra tissue in the back of their throat. When your body relaxes when you sleep, that tissue can drop down and block your airway. It makes you stop breathing over and over all night, which causes all kinds of health problems, especially for your heart. Slimming down a little can oten help with sleep apnea -- sometimes enough that you can stop using the bulky breathing devices that treat it.