10 Solutions for Sustained, Healthy Weight Loss
Achieving and reaching a healthy, sustained weight is possible for you. But maybe you’ve lost weight in the past only to gain it all back. What happened? You blame yourself, believing you’re a failure and that reaching a healthy body weight will always be out of your reach. You may also wonder, what are the secrets of others who’ve been successful at weight loss?
First, you are not a failure. You may have been misguided and given bad advice but losing some weight to help you feel better, reduce risk or complications of a disease or to achieve a better overall quality of life, is within your reach. Following are 10 evidenced-based solutions for successful sustained weight loss and management. You don’t have to follow all of them, but the more you incorporate into your daily life, the more successful you will be at losing weight and keeping the weight off long term.
Consider adding a new solution or two each week or so. Keep in mind, not all of the solutions work for everyone. Pick and choose those that feel right for you to customize your weight-control plan.
1. Begin with a healthful diet
Start by looking what you put in your grocery cart each time you go shopping for food. What predominately should be in it are lots of fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), whole grains, beans, fish, eggs, lean meat or plant protein sources, and low-fat dairy. There should be very few items that are full of sugar, refined grains, salty snack foods or fats high in unhealthy saturated or trans fats. Each day, aim for 20-35 grams of fiber from plant foods. Fiber fills you up, slowing down digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates. Use the USDA’s MyPlate as a visual guide on how to fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein foods.
2. Keep portions sizes in check
A huge key to successful weight loss and weight maintenance is portion control. That’s why if you use and follow the USDA’s MyPlate showing correct portions sizes on a plate, it can be an invaluable help in achieving weight loss. Also check the serving size listed on packaged foods nutrition facts label. For instance, if you have a certain snack you like to eat in the evening but you never measure it out according to what the serving size says on the label, you might be eating double or triple of what it states. That means lots of extra calories you are consuming which is not conducive for successful weight loss.
3. Eat slowly, chew well
It takes the brain about 20 minutes to get the message you are full when eating. People who eat slowly taking their time, tend to feel more full and end up eating less. The process of chewing itself may also stimulate satiety signals. In addition, eating slowly makes you more aware of the smell, taste, and texture of the foods, which can lead to greater satisfaction with fewer calories.
4. Don’t rely on willpower
If you keep tempting foods in your home, believing you have strong enough willpower to avoid them is likely unrealistic. Your best bet is to control your food environment by not having tempting or junk food at home or at least keeping them out of sight. If your willpower is tested away from home such as always stopping at a fast food drive-thru window on your way home from work, then start using a different route home. Never eat out of large bags or boxes of food either – instead portion out snacks in to small bowls or bags. While you may not have control over everything in your food environment, at least being aware of food triggers and traps can keep you from overeating.
5. Identify emotional triggers making you overeat
Have you ever eaten food to soothe yourself? Of course you have as we all have been there. Emotions of anger, stress, depression, loneliness or boredom, are a few examples of emotional triggers that push our buttons to want to eat more food. The trick is to distinguish between real hunger and emotional eating. The next time your emotions are wanting you to run to the kitchen to soothe them, stop. Ask yourself, am I really hungry or am I doing this to soothe an emotion? When you eat for reasons other than hunger, extra pounds can quickly add up. If this is a common problem for you, you may need to seek help with a therapist on finding other outlets other than eating to feel emotionally better. There are many pleasurable non-food-related activities you can do instead.
6. Have protein at each meal
Research has found protein increase satiety more than carbohydrates do meaning you fill up quicker and remain feeling full for a longer period of time. Protein also reduces muscle mass lost during weight loss. That’s why at each meal, aim for between 25-30 grams of protein. Choose sources such as beans, poultry, lean beef and pork, fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods such as milk and Greek yogurt.
7. Have regular meals – avoid skipping meals
A consistent meal-timing pattern is very helpful for weight loss. Have a breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Going for long stretches throughout the day without eating likely will make you overeat later on in the day. A body use to you eating at regular intervals each day, is more likely to perform and feel better than skipping meals without eating.
8. Avoid liquid calories
Beverages containing calories – sugary soda, juices, alcohol, sports drinks, etc., - can add up very quickly and can be a main source weight gain. Drinking a beverage is not as satiating as eating food. Plus many of us fail to compensate for liquid calories by eating less food. It’s best to stick with water or other noncaloric beverages like tea or coffee. Milk is okay to consume as it a nutrient dense food however, only about two cups or 16 ounces a day is sufficient.
9. Eat the majority of meals at home
It can be very difficult to expect weight loss when eating out frequently. That’s why eating at least 90% or more of your meals at home, can be a strong factor at weight loss and weight maintenance success. Home cooking means you are in control of how much oil, sugar and other high-calorie ingredients you use. You decide what portion size you will eat. Do avoid dependence on packaged meals like TV dinners. They may be easy to prepare but often loaded with too much sodium, fat, and calories. Instead, bring out your inner cook and look for healthy recipes to try.
10. Weigh yourself regularly – at least once a week
Frequent weighing increase self-awareness and can provide encouragement when the numbers are going in the right direction. Or it can also motivate you to get back on track if you’ve gained a few pounds. Regular self-weighing is a very effective strategy for maintaining long-term weight loss. The best time to weigh is first thing in the morning, after using the restroom. Ideally weight with little to no clothes on and only once a day. If you find your weight increasing, make adjustments in your lifestyle by tweaking eating or exercise habits.