Everyone knows the keys to losing weight --- eat less and exercise more. Sounds simple enough, but in the context of real life and its demands, it can be anything but simple. So how do successful losers do it?
1. Drink plenty of water or other calorie-free beverages.
People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. So you can end up eating extra calories when an ice-cold glass of water is really what you need.
“If you don’t like plain water, try adding citrus or a splash of juice, or brew infused teas like mango or peach, which have lots of flavor but no calories,” says Cynthia Sass, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
2. Think about what you can add to your diet, not what you should take away.
Start by focusing on getting the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
“It sounds like a lot, but it is well worth it, because at the same time you are meeting your fiber goals and feeling more satisfied from the volume of food,” says Chef Laura Pansiero, RD.
You’re also less likely to overeat because fruits and vegetables displace fat in the diet. And that’s not to mention the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. More than 200 studies have documented the disease-preventing qualities of phytochemicals found in produce, says Pansiero.
3. Consider whether you’re really hungry.
Whenever you feel like eating, look for physical signs of hunger, suggests Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? “Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need fuel, so when a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it,” she says.
When you’re done eating, you should feel better --- not stuffed, bloated, or tired. “Your stomach is only the size of your fist, so it takes just a handful of food to fill it comfortably,” says May.
Keeping your portions reasonable will help you get more in touch with your feelings of hunger and fullness.
4. Enjoy your favorite foods.
“I think putting your favorite foods off limits leads to weight gain because it triggers ‘rebound’ overeating,” says Sass.
Instead of cutting out your favorite foods altogether, be a slim shopper. Buy one fresh bakery cookie instead of a box, or a small portion of candy from the bulk bins instead of a whole bag.
“You can enjoy your favorite foods, but you must do so in moderation,” says Sass.
5. Eat several mini-meals during the day.
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. But when you’re hungry all the time, eating fewer calories can be challenging.
“Studies show people who eat 4-5 meals or snacks per day are better able to control their appetite and weight,” says obesity researcher Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD.
She recommends dividing your daily calories into smaller meals or snacks and enjoying as many of them as you can early in the day -- dinner should be the last time you eat.
6. Eat protein at every meal.
Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, and thus may be the new secret weapon in weight control.
“Diets higher in protein [and] moderate in carbs, along with a lifestyle of regular exercise, have an excellent potential to help weight loss,” says University of Illinois protein researcher Donald Layman, PhD.
Getting enough protein helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning while keeping you feeling full. So be sure to include healthy protein sources, like yogurt, cheese, nuts, or beans at meals and snacks.
7. Stock your kitchen with healthy convenience foods.
Having ready-to-eat snacks and meals-in-minutes staples on hand sets you up for success. You’ll be less likely to hit the drive-through or call in a pizza order if you can make a healthy meal in 5 or 10 minutes.
Here are some ideas for a healthy pantry:
- Fat-free microwave popcorn
- Frozen vegetables
- Bags of pre-washed greens
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Canned beans
- Whole-grain wraps or pitas
- Pre-cooked grilled chicken breasts
- A few containers of pre-cooked brown rice
8. Eat food in season.
“If you don’t love certain fruits or vegetables, it could be because you ate them out of season when they have little taste or flavor,” says Pensiero. “When you eat seasonally, fruits and vegetables are more flavorful, at their best, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
9. Swap a cup of pasta for a cup of vegetables.
Simply by eating less pasta or bread and more veggies, you could lose a dress or pants size in a year. “You can save from 100-200 calories if you reduce the portion of starch on your plate and increase the amount of vegetables,” says Sass.
10. Be physically active.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, don’t use exercise either to punish yourself for eating or to “earn” the right to eat more.
“When you do, it sets up a negative thought pattern, which is why so many people say they hate to exercise,” says May.
Instead, focus on how great you feel, how much better you sleep and how much more energy you have when you exercise. Physical activity is good for you whether you are trying to lose weight or not, so keep it positive and build a lifelong habit.