But let’s be honest, losing weight isn’t easy. Losing weight requires a very conscious effort to change habits and lifestyle.
The word diet is misleading; dieting doesn’t work at all. Dieting may initially help with weight loss, but at the end of the diet, patients gain weight again, often with more weight than was previously lost. Sure, a smoothie diet or prescription diet pills may help you lose weight in the short term, but what happens when the regimen is complete? Is it realistic to keep you on the milkshake diet in the future? Can your doctor safely put you on stimulants forever?
Your weight loss plan must be reasonable and sustainable over the long term. An effective way to maintain your lost weight in the long term is to change your lifestyle. Any diet books, gimmicks, fads, shakes, or supplements that talk about another set are just trying to sell you their product.
Don’t be deceived. Here are 10 evidence-based tips to help you lose weight and maintain your weight loss gains.
Rule out underlying diseases
The key is to see your doctor before you start. You’ll want to discuss your weight loss plan, get permission to start an exercise regimen, and get tested for some diseases. A simple blood test is usually done to check for diabetes and thyroid disease; and some other baseline tests may be required to make sure you are healthy enough to start a weight loss regimen and have no other underlying medical conditions that are causing you to be overweight.
Also, be sure to check your medication list with your doctor, as certain medications can cause weight gain, such as some ant seizure medications, antipsychotics, lithium, and steroids.
Determine your overweight range
Before making a plan, it is crucial to determine if and how much you are actually overweight. Almost all doctors use body mass index (BMI) as one of the tools to determine a person’s healthy weight:
BMI = weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared
A BMI of 25 to 29 is overweight, greater than 30 is obese, and greater than 40 is morbidly obese. Note that this formula does not account for muscle mass. For example, a bodybuilder’s BMI might look like morbidly obese, when they certainly aren’t. So, while BMI is useful, if you have visible muscle, you can’t trust the numbers. There are various useful calculators online that allow you to measure BMI online.
Another way to measure your weight (and track your progress) is to measure your waistline. Don’t stand on the scale, just look at the clothes size. Waist circumferences greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men are considered to be at increased risk of obesity-related medical complications.
Set short- and long-term goals
How much weight do you need to lose? Ask your doctor what your ideal weight is, and, in addition, set an initial weight goal and other temporary goals. Be realistic about short-term goals, because expecting to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time can create unnecessary frustration.
Studies have shown that people who are obese or overweight lose 5% of their body weight and have health benefits. This number is a first milestone for many. Overall, aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Do it slowly and steadily. If you’re trying to lose weight more quickly, you’re more likely to regain it just as quickly.
- Step by step
When you start a long-term weight management program, start with small changes. If you set sensible goals and achieve them incrementally, you’re more likely to be successful in the long run. For example, if you drink soda or juice, consider only stopping those items for the first week or two. After you’ve mastered this aspect, then perhaps switch from white starches to whole grains. In two weeks, maybe start a 5-minute walk every other day.
If you try to do too much at once, you have a better chance of giving up on the plan altogether. List all the small steps and changes you need to make and work through them one by one. Win steadily and slowly.
Reduce your diet
Even eating only vegetables and fruits can still lead to weight gain if you eat too much. Therefore, it is very important to eat only the right amount. Half of your plate should be vegetables, a quarter should be lean protein sources (skinless chicken, turkey, fish), and no more than a quarter grains or starches.
A simple tip for reducing portion sizes is to use smaller plates. Another way is to eat slowly, giving your brain enough time to receive the signal to eat, resulting in a greater feeling of fullness; chewing slowly can also make the food more delicious.
The idea that Americans’ obesity problem is caused by high-carbohydrate diets, not high-fat diets, has been maintained for decades. Americans have inadvertently increased their carbohydrate intake while limiting fat intake, leading to an increase in diabetes rates.
The worst ones tend to come in liquid form—soda, juice, and wine. These beverages are full of unnecessary calories and should be removed from the diet. Other culprits are bread, rice, tortillas, beans, potatoes (peanuts) and pasta that are eaten too much every day.
Keep carbs to a reasonable amount, aiming for no more than a quarter of the plate. And choose whole grains, complex carbohydrates, to replace white starch. That said, decide brown rice over white rice. The texture might not be as good at the initial switch, but you’ll get used to the change.
A very low-carb diet (less than 60 grams of carbs per day), such as the recent ketogenic craze, will help you lose weight. But are the effects sustainable long-term? For most people, not possible. If you’re following a very low-carb diet, it’s important to select healthy sources of protein and fat—you don’t want to get plaque buildup and heart disease in order to lose weight.
Choose healthier fat and protein sources
Choose heart-healthy fat and protein sources such as peanuts, nuts and seeds, avocados, and soy. Use olive oil or cooking spray for cooking instead of fatty oils or butter. Avoid fried foods. Switch to 1% low-fat milk or better fat-free milk. Limit red meat intake and select skinless chicken, turkey or fish instead.
Also watch out for salad dressings, which must be read labels as they tend to be high in fat or carbohydrates. Lemon juice or vinegar can be used alone.
Fiber increases stool bulk and can prolong satiety. Studies have shown that people who eat a high-fiber diet have a reduced lifetime risk of obesity and diabetes.
Adults should consume about 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. However, most people don’t get enough. Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits every day. Replace refined grains (white bread, white rice, etc.) with whole grains (100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, etc.). If you can’t get enough fiber in your diet, consider supplements. Increasing your fiber intake should be done gradually, too much in the beginning can cause symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.
Increase physical activity
You knew there would be this one. According to the math of weight management, you have to consume less energy than you expend. The most successful weight loss programs include not only dietary changes, but also physical activity. While diet alone is more effective at losing weight than exercise alone, these two strategies are most effective when performed together. Regular exercise is a good predictor of long-term weight maintenance after weight loss, and regular exercise is also beneficial for cardiovascular health.
If you’re leaning towards a sedentary lifestyle, take small steps (no pun intended). Initially, take a brisk walk (non-stop) for 5 minutes on most days. After reaching this goal, increase your walking time to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and so on, until you reach 30 minutes of uninterrupted cardiovascular exercise. Note that during a cardiovascular workout, your heart should be beating fast, and your body should be sweating.
Occasionally reward yourself for your hard work and great achievements with foods you like (no more than once a week and in appropriate portions). If you try to stop eating your favorite foods entirely, you’re more likely to deviate from your weight loss plan.