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1. Exercise. Starting a regular exercise program appropriate for your fitness level can be one of your greatest tools for losing weight and keeping it off. Multiple studies show that exercise not just burns calories during the activity, but revs up your metabolism for hours afterward. Exercise also improves your general health, your sleep, and your mood. Take opportunities throughout your day to be more active (like heading for the stairs instead of the elevator and parking your car farther away from the door) and you'll burn even more calories. Check with your doctor before you start a fitness program, especially if you are not accustomed to exercise.
2. Write it down. Most people who keep a food diary (jotting down everything they eat and how much) tend to eat less than those who don't. Also, if you keep a food diary, and hit a rough patch, you can look back on those times when you were doing well for inspiration. If you feel inspired, also make note of how you are feeling mentally and physically.
3. Get support. More people lose weight and keep it off if they have a good support system. You don't necessarily have to join a group that charges for membership, although some of them are very effective, as are many of the free, online weight-loss support sites. Even a supportive spouse, friend, or family member can help. Maybe he or she will want to lose a few pounds, too.
4. Set a series of small weight loss goals. Losing fifty pounds can seem like an insurmountable task, and it's no wonder some people quit. But setting a goal to lose five pounds feels much more achievable. When you lose the first five pounds, make a new goal to lose another five pounds, and so on, until you've lost the whole fifty. See how easy that was?
5. Learn to manage the stress in your life. Stress is one of the major reasons why we overeat. And going on a weight-loss program is one more stress on your body. Make time each day to relax, whether that's through meditation, deep breathing, prayer, playing with your children or pets, or even just taking a nap. Further reduce stress by making sure you get a good night's sleep. Staying up to watch late-night TV, then getting blasted awake by your alarm clock in the morning can leave you in a vulnerable state and less able to make good choices about your food intake.
6. Eat whole grains. The complex carbohydrates in whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat burn more slowly than more processed grains, to keep your blood sugar steady and you feeling more satisfied. Their high fiber content keeps you fuller and less likely to overeat. Aim for a half-cup serving with each meal.
Best weight loss tips continued on next page.
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7. Drink a lot of water. Not only does water help you maintain a feeling of fullness, it also improves your digestion and helps the body rid itself of the wastes that are released as body fat breaks down. One study showed that overweight women who drank water before each meal lost more weight than those who didn't.
8. Know portion sizes. A serving of grain is a half-cup, or about the size of the bulb of your average incandescent light bulb. A serving of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. A one-ounce serving of cheese is about the size of a pair of dice. Knowing portion sizes will help you keep your food intake down and your success up, especially as you move into maintaining your weight loss. (Unless you're willing to carry a set of measuring cups and spoons wherever you go.)
9. Learn how to handle slips. We are human, after all. Aunt Betsy's coconut crunch cake is to die for, or you had a bad day and get into the ice cream while watching TV. Mistakes happen. Sometimes, old habits creep back in and you may regain a few pounds. Forgive yourself, and then move on with your program.
10. Reward yourself along the way. No, not with a giant cupcake from the bakery down the block. Try a small, non-food indulgence like curling up with a new book, or making an appointment for a massage. This will help keep you motivated. Make one of those goals some clothing in your new, smaller size or a new hairstyle to help you see the "new you."
No one said losing weight was a piece of cake. But if you have the best weight loss tips, you'll have an easier time settling for a bite or two-or even passing it up altogether-then moving on to enjoy the party.
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Photo courtesy of istock.com
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Nutrition.gov, "Interested in Losing Weight?" http://www.nutrition.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=11&tax_level=3&tax_subject=390&topic_id=1741&level3_id=6295&level4_id=0&level5_id=0&placement_default=0
Weight Control Information Network, "Weight Loss For Life" http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/for_life.htm
PubMed.com, "Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18787524
Weight Control Information Network, "Better Health and You" http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/better_health.htm
Healthfinder.gov, "Conversation Starters" http://www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/ViewTool.aspx?toolId=10
WebMD.com, "Portion Size Plate" http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-portion-size-plate