With new year upon us, the age-old tradition of weight loss is back in vogue. But rather than focus on looking Instagram ready, medical experts say embracing healthier eating overall can really drive change. How so? Well, weight management and health management can be one in the same.
“It’s all about calorie balance,” says Dr. Lisa Hladik, an internal medicine doctor in Burlingame, Calif., who cares for patients as part of Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “You need to take in less calories than you burn on a daily basis, which really means eating less.”
That sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. To start, Dr. Hladik suggests asking yourself, “What’s gotten in the way of me making these changes in the past?” Then, consider trying some new approaches to weight loss. Here are some ways to help.
Keep a Food Diary
For three to five days track your eating behaviors – how much, when and why you eat. Are you skipping breakfast? Do you snack mid-day? Are you grazing in the fridge after dinner? If so, why? Identifying environmental and emotional triggers will help you uncover unhealthy eating patterns.
Studies have shown that people who write down their daily eating habits lose more weight than those who don’t. Personal coaching from a nutritionist or dietitian can also help you make better choices and set realistic goals.
Exercise won’t melt away pounds, but it can help you feel better, have more energy and reduce stress. And that may help you manage weight.
You can reap the health benefits of exercise with just 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Federal guidelines recommend at least 300 minutes of strenuous exercise per week for weight loss.
Cardio workouts burn the most calories per minute, but strength training boosts metabolism over time, helping you burn calories outside of the gym, as well.
If you aren’t exercising right now, try walking an extra 15 minutes per day. Invest in a pedometer activity tracker and work your way up to 8,000 to 10,000 daily steps. A smartphone app can track both your exercise and calories, Dr. Hladik says. Research shows that the mere act of tracking what you eat and how much you exercise is very effective in changing old patterns and losing weight.
You don’t need to go on a liquid diet to get health results. “Cutting 100 calories a day from your diet can lead to a 10-pound weight loss over a year,” says Dr. Hladik. Consider trying these simple changes:
- Eat three well-balanced meals each day. While omitting a meal seems like an obvious way to cut calories, the result is often insatiable hunger, which leads to unplanned, unhealthy snacking and super-sized portions at lunch or dinner.
- Skip sugary beverages. Soda, alcoholic beverages and sweetened coffee drinks can add calories without curbing your hunger or providing nutritional value.
- Increase the amount of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet. At each meal, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. The other half should be a quarter starch and a quarter protein. Keep pre-cut veggies in your fridge and fresh fruit on your counter for easy access to healthy snacks.
Set a Healthy Goal
For most people, losing just 7 to 10% of their body weight can reap many health benefits. And losing the weight gradually over six to 12 months is the key to maintaining a healthy weight.
You want to create a sustainable lifestyle, says Dr. Hladik. So, skip the fad diets. Instead, re-design your eating and exercise habits. Build new habits that you can maintain for the long haul. Your body and your mind will thank you.