Meal prepping takes a few hours a week, but it's worth it: By getting your meals ready ahead of time, you won't be so tempted to order your go-to Chinese takeout when you're tired and hungry after work. "When you plan an entire week of dinner in advance, you're way less likely to go off course and indulge in foods that aren't good for you," says Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health expert and cooking instructor. And since you planned things out, you'll actually get the protein, fruit, and veggies your body needs — and you'll lose weight in the process.
Simply putting your focus on eating fewer calories than you burn is a losing strategy, because this oversimplified numerical approach treats all calories as equal — which they are not, says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, a Harvard Medical School professor and internationally respected obesity researcher. It’s not so much the quantity of calories we eat that drives weight gain and loss, he asserts, but rather the nature and quality of those calories.
When the pounds start coming off, some people are tempted to increase their amount of gym time to accelerate their progress. Don't give in. As with your dietary changes, working out is a lifestyle change, and those don't happen in a week. While it is possible to increase the amount of time you spend at the gym, you don't want to do it all at once in such a way that you either get injured or burn yourself out & start to hate the gym.
In contrast, highly effective weight-loss techniques involve following a healthy eating pattern or lifestyle, with a goal of long-term weight maintenance and lowered risk for chronic disease. For example, a healthy eating pattern known as the DASH Eating Plan (similar to the 2010 Dietary Recommendations for Americans) does not involve calorie restriction. Instead, it encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat.
“When clients come to me, many of them have been through the diet wringer. They’ve tried every fad and gimmick and, of course, they’ve failed to maintain long-term success. The key to weight loss is to never feel like you’re on a diet, because diets don’t work. If you feel deprived, you will never make it past a few weeks. The only way to achieve long-term weight loss is to learn to appreciate food as fuel and slowly replaced processed food that cannot properly energize the body with real food that can. After a while this will become second nature and won’t feel like a daily struggle.” — Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN
Lowering sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams, (less than 1,500 milligrams for older adults, African Americans, or those with health conditions that increase risk for high blood pressure), is also an important component of a healthful diet. Foods high in sodium are often processed, pre-packaged, and may have more calories from added fats and refined sugar. For more information on sodium, see fact sheet Sodium and the Diet.
They should help keep you from feeling deprived and bingeing on higher-calorie foods. For instance: honey has just 64 fat-releasing calories in one tablespoon. Eggs have just 70 calories in one hard-boiled egg, loaded with fat-releasing protein. Part-skim ricotta cheese has just 39 calories in one ounce, packed with fat-releasing calcium. Dark chocolate has about 168 calories in a one-ounce square, but it’s packed with fat releasers. And a University of Tennessee study found that people who cut 500 calories a day and ate yogurt three times a day for 12 weeks lost more weight and body fat than a group that only cut the calories. The researchers concluded that the calcium in low-fat dairy foods triggers a hormonal response that inhibits the body’s production of fat cells and boosts the breakdown of fat.
At the same time, wearing clothes you can actually move in (read: not stilettos and a tiny pencil skirt) to work might help keep you active during the day instead of parked at your desk. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that people took an average of eight percent more steps on days that they wore jeans instead of conventional business clothes. You officially have a health excuse to ask for casual Friday every day.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
“I tell all of my celebrity and professional-athlete clients to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Everyone is overly focused on food, water and exercise, all of which are extremely imperative to weight loss and optimal health. However, without proper sleep, all of these the other factors are null and void. When you don’t get enough sleep, levels of the hormone leptin drop, which increases appetite. This surge in appetite makes comfort food more appealing, which can derail weight loss efforts.” — Jay Cardiello, celebrity fitness and nutrition expert
Stress may contribute to abdominal fat, according to several studies, including a recent one at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you're stressed, hormones like cortisol stimulate your appetite, slow your metabolism down and encourage fat storage inside your abdomen," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Clinic at the University of Utah. So what's a frazzled girl to do? "Find an activity that reduces stress for you, whether it's listening to soothing music or taking yoga, and do it daily," advises Talbott.
Eating right and watching your weight are key to a healthy future. What's missing? Exercise, of course. A regular routine, if right for you, will help you burn more calories, feel more energized and build lean muscle mass. Check with your physician before beginning and exercise routine. For tips on making exercise part of your life, check out the President's Challenge, an interactive website that helps you get fit no matter your age. www.presidentschallenge.org
Conversely, the more food in front of you, the more you’ll eat—regardless of how hungry you are. So instead of using regular dinner plates that range these days from 10 to 14 inches (making them look empty if they’re not heaped with food), serve your main course on salad plates (about 7 to 9 inches wide). Instead of 16-ounce glasses and oversized coffee mugs, return to the old days of 8-ounce glasses and 6-ounce coffee cups.
The weight loss market is overflowing with diet aids that all claim to help you lose weight quickly. Shakes, snacks and pills marketed as appetite suppressants and weight loss programs litter the shelves of most stores today. Unfortunately, the desire to lose weight often causes people to forget that weight loss is most beneficial to the body when it is done in a safe and healthy manner. Weight loss is also more sustainable when it's achieved with lifestyle changes over a long period of time.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL