Face it… fad diets, diet pills and extreme calorie restriction has never worked for anyone! The key to losing weight is taking small steps and enjoying a number of flavorful, healthy foods, along with moderate exercise. That’s right, you don’t have to starve yourself, or spend 4-hours a day at the gym to lose weight; but you do need to develop smarter diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. While cultivating this virtue isn’t exactly painless, it may help to know that adopting a lifestyle of many small healthy habits helps to keep weight off, which generally gets easier over time. In fact, a study recently published in Obesity Research, found that maintaining weight loss required less effort as time went on for people who had lost 30+ pounds, and kept it off for at least two years. Focus on these small healthy habits as a start to being more health conscious.
1. Consume a colorful diet – Color your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, lean meats and fish. Sauté your vegetables in garlic and olive oil, but stay away from margarine/butter substitutes. Increase your consumption of lean proteins and flavor up your dish with a variety of spices such as cumin or rosemary instead of salt. The more color, the better!
2. Exercise – Take the stairs instead of the elevator, sign up for a community or group sport, take a yoga course, or try to walk more places! Get a personal trainer or try doing an hour of moderate to intense physical activity at the gym 3 times a week with a friend over lunch break. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re up and active. Make exercise social and fun… you’ll be more likely to stick with it! People who are active, social, and less stressed are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
3. Take an age and gender specific multivitamin – new research shows that daily multivitamin use may decrease your risk of cancer and enhance your short-term memory. While a daily multivitamin won’t help you lose weight, it will help to fill nutrient gaps where your diet might fall short!
4. Cut back on sugar and refined carbs (white rice, bread and products with added sugar) and replace them with whole grains (oats are a nutrition powerhouse). Hint – many low-fat products, such as diet bars, grain bowls and cereals contain a lot of added sugar and/or refined grains.
5. Try a flavored vodka soda (stay away from mixers like tonic water) on the weekend, or better yet, enjoy a light beer or glass of red wine instead of sugary drinks such as margaritas, daiquiris and drinks that use flavored syrup! Numerous studies have shown beneficial effects of moderate consumption (not overconsumption) of red wine on the cardiovascular system.
6. Eat several small meals throughout the day. A handful of nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, etc.) makes a great heart healthy snack!
7. Increase your intake of fiber (through the diet and/or supplements) since its known to help with satiety, lowers bad cholesterol, and increases GI regularity.
8. Drink lots of water and 3 cups of non-fat milk per day, instead of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda. Drinking a glass of water or nonfat milk before you eat helps you eat less. Milk is the number one source of calcium in the diet; it’s extremely important for building and maintaining strong bones during all stages of life.
9. Don’t spend a tremendous amount of effort trying to cut sodium from your diet, unless you have hypertension or heart disease. Instead, try choosing foods that are good sources of potassium, like baked potatoes, coconut water, white beans, bananas, dates, clams, and low/non-fat yogurt. Most individuals consume too much sodium and not enough potassium (both of these essential nutrients need to be kept in balance).
For additional information on healthy weight loss visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate website.