For most people, the best way to lose weight is not the mystery the media like to make it out to be. It doesn't require you to go hungry, lose energy, strap on any kind of device or drink chocolate-flavored imitation food drinks. No, the best way to lose weight is to make healthy lifestyle changes that promote weight loss over time and set you up with sustainable habits that will keep the weight off.
That means no weird diets - they don't work, they really, really don't. And neither does over-exercising. That's good news. It means you can focus on making healthy lifestyle changes that actually fit real life. Burning more calories than you eat can be as simple as exercise and a healthy, calorie-conscious (but not fanatical) diet. Below are five simple, sustainable lifestyle tips that will help you create optimal conditions in your life to lose weight and develop healthy diet and fitness habits.
1. Move and Exercise More
You don't have to be an exercise fanatic or a gym rat to burn more calories. You just have to get moving on a regular basis. The best exercise programs include a combination of cardio, which is exercise that sustains a higher heart rate; and strength/flexibility training, such as Pilates. If you don't like gyms, take dance classes, walk, hike, do yoga, take up ski racing. Lots of different kinds of exercises can work. Think about what you might like and get to it.
2. Get Friendly with Calories
I'm not suggesting that you count calories as a diet unless you have to. That is tedious and, for most, unsustainable. However, having a general idea of the calories in the foods you eat will help you tremendously in balancing your diet in a way that helps reduce overall calorie consumption and moves you toward eating healthy foods.
News flash: Calories are your friends. They are your source of energy. One of the big mistakes people make is to not eat enough (of the right foods) when they want to lose weight. Then they feel hungry, let their blood sugar drop, lose brain fuel and give up. If you have a basic sense of which foods are healthy and low in calories, you will be a happy "loser."
3. Eat Your Colors and Textures
This tip is one of the best. Here's why: It turns the self-denial part of losing weight on its head. A healthy diet is a celebration of colors, textures and types of food. Most unhealthy diets, the ones that keep people fat, are way too far into white (sugar, flour), smooth (processed) and oily (fat), which miss the real-food party. The acronym for this kind of diet is S.A.D. - Standard American Diet.
Now contrast the S.A.D diet with one full of color, texture and variety. That means lots of fruits and vegetables along with their many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as cholesterol-lowering, bowel-regulating and tummy-filling fiber. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are low calorie relative to the amount of nutrition they provide, and most are low calorie anyway. Eat lots, be healthy, lose weight. Whole grains and beans - nice brown and deeply colored foods with texture - should be frequenting your palette as well. Whole grains are nutritious, provide fiber and break down more slowly than refined grain foods, giving us sustained energy.
4. Shop the Outer Circle
Up and down the aisles we go. But that's not where the healthy lifestyle food is! When you go to the supermarket, the fresh, colorful food is usually on the perimeter of the store. The produce is almost always along the sides. The fresh fish and lean meats are along the outside edges as well. So, if you just make it a habit to fill up your cart from the big circle, and then make very conscious forays down specific aisles for well-thought-out choices, you will go home with bags full of good, healthy food.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Believe it. You do need sleep to be healthy and lose weight, and eight hours is still the gold standard. If fact, studies show that not getting enough sleep affects the balance of hormones called leptin and ghrelin, which are supposed to work together to keep the appetite in check. Lack of sleep, however, can make ghrelin levels go up out of the proper ratio to leptin, which makes your appetite go up, which makes your weight go up. Not only that, but connections have been shown between lack of sleep and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol promotes the accumulation of belly fat. Not the best weight loss plan.
Then, there is the part about being too tired to exercise or think well enough to make wise decisions about food. So catch your Zzzzz's.
How Little Sleep Can You Get Away With? New York Times Magazine
Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It - Harvard Health Publication
Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight - Len Kravitz, Ph.D; University of New Mexico
Bad News For Insomniacs: 'Hunger Hormones' Affected By Poor Sleep ScienceDaily.com