Although there are many different “fad” diets available, a balanced lifestyle and nutritious diet are the keys to a healthy life and better weight control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 93.3 million adults in the United States were obese in 2015-2016. This figure corresponds to 39.8 per cent of the population.
Carrying excess body weight can increase your risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
Crash diets are not a sustainable solution, no matter what benefits their proponents claim. In order to lose weight safely and maintain it over time, it is essential to make gradual, lasting and beneficial lifestyle changes.
In this article, we provide 10 tips for weight control.
10 tips for successful weight loss
People can lose weight and keep it off with a few achievable steps. These include the following:
- Eat varied, colorful, nutrient-dense foods
Healthy meals and snacks should form the basis of the human diet. An easy way to create a meal plan is to make sure each meal contains 50 percent fruits and vegetables, 25 percent whole grains, and 25 percent protein. Total fiber intake should be 25-30 grams per day.
Eliminate trans fats from your diet and minimize your intake of saturated fat, which is strongly associated with coronary heart disease.
Instead, people can consume monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are types of unsaturated fat.
The following foods are healthy and often rich in nutrients:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal
Foods to avoid include:
- foods with added oils, butter and sugar
- fatty red or processed meat
- baked goods
- White bread
- processed foods
In some cases, removing certain foods from the diet can cause a person to become deficient in certain essential vitamins and minerals. A nutritionist, dietitian, or other healthcare professional can advise a person on how to get enough nutrients while following a weight loss program.
- Keep a food and weight diary
Self-control is a critical factor in successful weight loss. People can use a paper diary, a mobile app or a dedicated website to record each food item they consume each day. They can also measure their progress by recording their weight on a weekly basis.
Those who can track their success in small steps and identify physical changes are much more likely to stick with their weight loss regimen.
People can also track their body mass index (BMI) using a BMI calculator.
- Engage in regular physical activity and exercise
Regular exercise is important for both physical and mental health. In a disciplined and purposeful way, increasing the frequency of physical activity is often the key to successful weight loss.
One hour of moderate-intensity activity a day, such as brisk walking, is ideal. If one hour a day is not possible, the Mayo Clinic recommends that a person strive for at least 150 minutes each week.
People who are not usually physically active should slowly increase the amount of exercise they do and gradually increase its intensity. This approach is the most sustainable way to make regular exercise a part of their lifestyle.
Just as food logging can psychologically help with weight loss, people can also benefit from tracking their physical activity. There are many free mobile apps available that track a person’s calorie balance after recording food intake and exercise.
If someone new to exercise finds the idea of a full-on workout intimidating, they can start with the following activities to increase their level of exercise:
- take the stairs
- raking leaves
- walking the dog
- playing outdoor games
- parking further from the entrance to the building
Individuals who are at low risk of coronary heart disease are unlikely to require a medical evaluation before starting an exercise regimen.
However, for some people, including diabetics, a prior medical examination may be appropriate. Anyone unsure of a safe level of exercise should consult a health professional.
- Eliminate liquid calories
By drinking sugar-sweetened soda, tea, juice or alcohol, it is possible to consume hundreds of calories a day. These are known as “empty calories” because they provide extra energy content without offering any nutritional benefits.
If one is not consuming a smoothie as a meal replacement, one should focus on water or unsweetened tea and coffee. Adding a drop of fresh lemon or orange to the water can provide flavor.
Avoid confusing dehydration with hunger. An individual can often satisfy feelings of hunger between scheduled meal times by drinking water.
- Measure portions and control portions
Eating too much of any food, even low-calorie vegetables, can result in weight gain.
Therefore, people should avoid estimating portion sizes or eating food directly from the package. It is better to use measuring cups and serving size guides. Guessing leads to overestimation and the likelihood of eating a larger portion than necessary.
The following size comparisons may be useful for tracking food intake while dining:
- a quarter cup is a golf ball
- one half of the cup is a tennis ball
- 1 cup is a baseball
- 1 ounce (oz) of nuts is a loose handful
- 1 teaspoon is 1 dice
- 1 tablespoon is the tip of your thumb
- 3 ounces of meat is a deck of cards
- 1 slice is a DVD
These sizes are not exact, but can help a person moderate their food intake when the proper tools are not available.
- Eat mindfully
Many people benefit from mindful eating, which means being fully aware of why, how, when, where and what they eat.
Healthier food choices are a direct result of better alignment with the body.
People who practice mindful eating also try to eat more slowly and enjoy their food, focusing on the taste. If a meal lasts 20 minutes, the body registers all signals of satiety.
It’s important to focus on feeling satisfied rather than full after a meal, and keep in mind that many “natural” or low-fat foods aren’t necessarily healthy choices.
People may also consider the following food choice questions:
- Is it good “value” for the cost of calories?
- Will it provide satiety?
- Are the ingredients healthy?
- If it has a label, how much fat and sodium does it contain?
- Stimulus and cue management
Many social and environmental cues can encourage unnecessary eating. For example, some people tend to overeat while watching TV. Others have trouble passing a bowl of candy to someone else without taking a piece.
When people become aware of what might trigger the urge to eat empty calories, they can figure out ways to adjust their routines to reduce those triggers.
- Plan ahead
Stocking your kitchen with diet foods and creating structured meal plans will lead to more significant weight loss.
People who want to lose weight or keep it off should clear their kitchen of processed or unhealthy foods and ensure they have ingredients on hand to prepare simple, healthy meals. This way you can prevent fast, unplanned and careless eating.
The process can also make it easier to plan food choices before attending social events or restaurants.
- Seek social support
Enlisting the support of loved ones is an integral part of a successful weight loss journey.
Some people might want to invite friends or family members to join them, while others might prefer to use social media to share their progress.
Other ways of support may include:
- positive social network
- group or individual counseling
- exercise clubs or partners
- assistance programs for employees at work
- Stay positive
Losing weight is a gradual process and one can feel discouraged if the pounds are not coming off at the rate they expected.
Some days will be harder than others when sticking to a weight loss or maintenance program. A successful weight loss program requires the individual to persevere and not give up when self-change seems too difficult.
Some people may need to reset their goals, potentially by adjusting the total number of calories they want to eat or changing their exercise patterns.
It is important to maintain a positive outlook and be persistent in working to overcome obstacles to successful weight loss.
Successful weight loss does not require people to follow a specific diet plan such as Slimming World or Atkins. Instead, they should focus on eating fewer calories and moving more to achieve a negative energy balance.
Weight loss is primarily dependent on reducing total calorie intake, not on adjusting the proportion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the diet.
A reasonable weight loss goal to start seeing health benefits is to lose 5-10 percent of your body weight over 6 months.
Most people can achieve this goal by reducing their total calorie intake to somewhere in the range of 1,000-1,600 calories per day.
A diet of less than 1000 calories per day will not provide sufficient daily nutrition.
After 6 months of dieting, the rate of weight loss usually slows and body weight tends to stagnate because people use less energy at a lower body weight. Following a weight maintenance program based on healthy eating habits and regular physical activity is the best way to avoid regaining lost weight.
People who have a BMI equal to or greater than 30 without obesity-related health problems may benefit from prescription weight loss medications. They may also be suitable for people with a BMI equal to or greater than 27 with obesity-related conditions.
However, one should only take medication to support the above lifestyle modifications. If attempts to lose weight are unsuccessful and a person’s BMI reaches 40 or more, surgical therapy is an option.