Earlier this week I promised to post some more healthy weight loss strategies to go along with my previous post about Tenet #4. Here they are:
- Track your intake! Even if it’s just for a few days. Writing down or recording online what you eat serves two purposes. The first is to give you a realistic picture of what you are eating. It’s amazing how a handful of crackers here and a bite of cookie dough there will add up, and it’s easy to forget what you’ve eaten during the day unless you have a record of it. The second purpose is to make you more aware in the moment of your food choices. Are you actually hungry? Or are you looking to food to fulfill an emotional need or because you’re bored? Tracking your intake creates awareness.
- Eat on a regular basis. Most people should be eating a snack or a meal every 3-4 hours for optimal energy. Try hard not to skip meals, and pack snacks for during the day so that you can avoid coming to the dinner table ravenous. The best snacks include a source of protein (i.e. greek yogurt, nuts, string cheese, etc.) for sustained energy.
- Make nutrition your priority over exercise when it comes to weight loss. People often complain that they are exercising for hours each week, and yet the scale isn’t budging. Exercise is essential for weight maintenance, and fantastic for mood, energy, disease prevention, and overall health, but when it comes strictly to weight loss, research shows that diet matters more. It’s very difficult to see significant weight loss without eating fewer calories. Of course, the best approach to weight loss is a combination of dietary changes and exercise. My colleague Neal, who is an exercise specialist, agrees that exercise cannot trump a poor diet when weight loss is the goal.
- Get adequate sleep. Your body needs rest. Your brain needs rest. When we rest, our body systems and our brain renew themselves (especially when we combine sleep with good nutrition). Sleep also allows us to handle stress better, and it is much more difficult to lose weight when we’re stressed.
- Get support. Several studies have been done recently looking at diet composition and weight loss. Researchers were studying the most effective balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate to produce weight loss (i.e. low fat diet, low carbohydrate, high protein, etc.). The interesting finding that came out of these studies was that strongest predictor of weight loss was not which diet was followed, but attendance at support meetings. If you are serious about losing weight, tell people about it. Find a buddy with similar goals and share your successes and struggles. Seek out encouragement and support—it’s absolutely essential.
It’s worth repeating, that a healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. Weight isn’t gained instantly, and it doesn’t come off instantly either, so be patient and diligent with your new lifestyle changes. As you progress closer and closer to your goals, you’ll feel better, have more energy, and will thus be motivated to keep going!