It's Simple, Really
You may think losing weight has to be complicated, but the bottom line is pretty simple: Eat less; exercise more. You have to consume fewer calories than you burn off.
When you're ready to begin a weight-loss program, you may find it helpful to first record everything that you eat for a couple of weeks. You may be surprised at how many calories you actually consume.
What's a Portion?
No need to weigh everything. You can easily estimate many portion sizes with your hand.
Teaspoon = your thumb to the first joint
Tablespoon = your whole thumb
Cup = your fist
Three ounces of meat = your palm
Reduce Fat or Carbs?
The medical community has no shortage of disagreement about whether it's better to cut down on fat or carbohydrates when you're trying to lose weight. Both nutrients are essential for good health.
"[W]hen it comes to weight loss, the source of calories—whether from fat, protein or carbohydrate—isn't as important as the number of calories you consume," reported the National Institutes of Health in the December issue of its News in Health newsletter.
The Centers for Disease Control, however, traces America's weighty problem to a major increase in carbohydrates. From 1971 to 2000, the amount of carbs women ate increased from 45 percent to nearly 52 percent. For men, the rate went from 42 percent to 49 percent of their daily diet.
Nutritionists attribute much of that increase to processed foods labeled "low fat" or "fat free," when those foods are actually high in carbs, salt and sugar. Our obsession with reducing fat in tandem with processed-food labeling has many Americans wrongly convinced that they can eat as much as they want as long as it's not fat.
Dr. Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com advises using your hunger as a guide: "Fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, thinking you 'can't do without the carbs,' remember this is a sign that you haven't replaced them with sufficient amounts of fat. So go ahead and add a bit more. You do want to make sure you're adding the correct types of fat, though."
Those types, Mercola says, include fats from olives and olive oil; raw nuts; avocados, grass-fed meats and organic eggs.
Defining your goal, then setting small, specific milestones within a realistic timeline will help you meet your weight-loss target.
To lose one pound a week, complete this equation:
[ your weight x 12 ] - 500 = your daily calorie goal
To lose two pounds a week, substitute 1,000 for the 500.
Source: Eating Well magazine
Drink Your Water
Drinking water before eating is a proven method of reducing the amount of calories you consume, said Brenda Davy, an associate professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech. In an interview with WebMD.com, Davy said that water makes people feel fuller, inducing them to eat less food.
Davy's 2010 study showed that people who drank two cups of water before meals lost an average of 15.5 pounds in 12 weeks in comparison to the 11 pounds lost by those who didn't drink the extra water. After 12 months, she found that water drinkers kept the weight off, averaging another 1 or 2 pounds lost.
In addition, people often mistake thirst for hunger, eating more instead of hydrating well. Next time you fell hunger pangs, reach for water first.
Go to Bed
Not getting sufficient sleep may contribute to your waistline's expansion, says Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. In an interview with WebMD.com, Zafarlotfi explained that sleep deprivation can lead to reaching for coffee and comfort food to make up for the fact that you're tired, and your metabolism is out of whack.
William D.S. Killgore, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, made similar findings in his recent study. Being tired lowers our resistance to high-calorie foods, he says. Killgore told Experience Life magazine that getting sufficient sleep "is one of your best weapons against gaining weight in the long run.
Most adults need around 7.5 hours of good sleep a night, says Michael Breus, author of "Beauty Sleep" and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz. Sleep deprivation can decrease the amount of leptin in your system. "Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin," Breus told WebMD.
For good, solid, uninterrupted sleep, dim the lights, turn off the TV, lower the thermostat and relish the quiet. If you're a light sleeper, consider a sleep mask and even earplugs if necessary.
Last, but not least, don't eat for an hour or two before you hit the sack. People who eat before bed gain 3 to 5 more pounds a year than those who don't, advises Dr. Mehmet Oz in Oprah magazine.
Sources: WebMD.com; Experience Life magazine; Oprah magazine.
Avoid the 'Whites'
Good nutrition is often a matter of remembering some simple rules, such as avoiding most white edibles. These include white flour, salt, sugar, milk, white rice and potatoes. You'll find that processed foods—whether they're baked, boxed, canned or frozen—are loaded with white foods and ingredients.
Instead, choose unprocessed or lightly processed foods made with whole grains. Shop the periphery of the grocery store. That's where you'll find the fruits and vegetables, dairy and meats. Take the saltshaker off the table and cut down or eliminate sugar and sugary drinks.
Every Little Bit Helps
When it comes to exercise, begin where you are right now. Don't overdo; being stiff and sore will only make you want to quit, especially if you're just starting out. Taking even a 10 or 20-minute walk is far better than sitting on your couch not moving. Don't under-do, either. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day can keep you from gaining weight says Dr. Mehmet Oz in the January issue of Oprah magazine. It can also reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack by 30 percent, he adds.
What's the number-one reason people don't exercise? They're too tired. And yet it takes energy to create energy. Even mild exercise can increase the endorphins your brain releases into your bloodstream. Endorphins are "feel-good" chemicals. They can help brighten your mood or make you feel peaceful. And, although it may seem counter-intuitive, using energy will give you more energy.
Look for every opportunity to add movement to your day: Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park your car in the farthest space instead of the closest; get up and visit a co-worker in his or her office or cubby instead of emailing; clean something.
Sources: Oprah magazine; Eating Well magazine.