If you have ever wondered what the key to successful weight loss is, you are not alone. Many people have tried lots of different approaches that may lead to some weight loss but for most, that is not sustained. Weight loss is a hard puzzle to crack. And maintaining that weight loss is even more challenging. But scientific studies do provide validation for effective strategies for losing weight and provide us help in understanding how to be successful in keeping it off over time.
The key is to commit to a holistic approach that includes your diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Can you successfully lose weight by just changing (for example) your diet? Yes, but when you add regular physical activity and behavior modification to the mix, you greatly increase your chances to achieve and maintain a healthier weight.
Let’s take a look at each piece and see how they fit into the puzzle:
- Diet: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week, you’ll need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day. The biggest problem with calorie reduction is that you feel like you are losing something. The best way to achieve this reduction and not feel hungry is to eat foods that help you feel full. Low glycemic index foods are typically low sugar/high protein/high fiber foods. These foods are slowly digested and absorbed, which helps manage hunger and energy levels. Fill your dinner plate with an array of colorful vegetables—they are highly nutritious yet low in calories. Make sure when you cut calories that you are still giving your body the nutrition it needs; a good multivitamin is another way to make certain you aren’t missing essential nutrients.
- Meal Replacements: Look for protein-rich fortified protein shakes and meal bars that are designed to help you reduce calories yet not be hungry.
- Physical activity: The Mayo Clinic suggests that being active is an important part of any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program. Exercise really should be a lifelong habit. Maintaining your weight loss may very well be impossible without some form of exercise. Activities of daily living, like walking the dog, count. Resistance exercise is also important; it helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss, and that keeps your metabolism up. Recent research suggests that how hard you exercise matters, so pick up the intensity as you adapt to an exercise routine. Check with your doctor if you are just beginning an exercise program or have any physical limitations.
- Behavior modification: When you think about it, we are all a collection of habits and our habits influence how we eat, why we eat (stress), our engagement with physical activity, how we sleep, and more. Many of these habits may be getting in the way of your success. Behavior modification means changing what you are doing and moving towards healthier choices—like learning how to navigate the grocery store to avoid unhealthy foods. Look for a weight loss program that includes plenty of education and help with adopting healthy habits.
On your path to losing weight, making small positive changes can lead to success. Start your journey today!