With so many get ripped yesterday and lose 50 pounds by tomorrow schemes out there, its tempting to keep looking for that easy way to lean out. But, even extreme plans that seem to work for a while are fraught with trouble.
The reality: If you really want to be a slimmer you, youll be making some habit changes in terms of how you eat and move.
Lifestyle changes are the best way to improve health and manage weight long term, says Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and editor of The Mayo Clinic Diet Book and The Mayo Clinic CookbookHere are some of the most effective tips and tricks for changing your lifestyle and droppping those extra pounds.
The good news: If you really want to succeed, you wont be going on a diet. When someone undertakes a program with the typical approach to diet, they do something thats very restrictive and drudgery but they think, If I can just do this until I lose the weight, Ill be fine. Hensrud says. But if its negative and restrictive, its temporary. The potentially less-good news (if youre resistant to change): You will likely have to modify what you eat, how much you eat, or (probably) both.
Accept that calories count. Hensrud says. This is basic, but there are many fads out there that say they dont. By the numbers, one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So in order to lose a pound per week, youd have to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. This doesnt mean that you need to count every morsel that goes into your mouth (though if youre into that sort of thing, feel free).
Rather, you need to understand calorie density versus nutrient density. Foods that are calorie-dense tend to be high in fat (after all, there are 9 calories per gram of it) and/or full of empty caloriesas in, ones that dont provide much nutrition (sorry, French fries, candy bars, and soda). On the other hand, nutrient-dense foods have lots of good vitamins and minerals for their calorie load. The best ones also have fiber, protein, and/or good fat content, which will keep you fuller longer (which is another reason that sugar-laden juice should probably be limited). Hello, veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean fish, chicken, beans, and nuts.
Vegetables are particularly nutrient dense, especially those that are vividly colored, like dark greens and bright red tomatoes. Greens like kale and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, which will fill you up.
Fruit is a great choice, too, and though it is higher in sugar, the fiber content tends to offset that in terms of preventing a blood sugar spike. The color rule applies here, too, with brilliant berries leading the pack in terms of nutrient density. Still, watch your portions if your main goal is weight loss.
Whole grains are fiber-rich and provide necessary nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium, and yes, even protein. Wheat, oats, and brown rice may be most common, but get creative with quinoa (a particularly good source of protein), amaranth, buckwheat, and teff.
Lean fish, such as wild-caught salmon, rainbow trout, and sardines are low in mercury and high in Omega 3s and, of course, protein.
Boneless, skinless chicken breast is one of the best bangs for your buck in terms of protein content, with 27 grams in a 4-ounce serving.
Beans are both low in calories yet very filling, being high in fiber and protein (hows that for nutrient-dense?). Top choices include black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeasbut really any are worth your while.
Nuts are best enjoyed in moderation on account of their relatively high fat content, which makes them more caloric ounce for ounce than other healthy picks. Stick to the serving sizes (usually an ounce) and youll reap the benefits of their wide array of nutrients and their satiating abilities. Especially good picks are almonds, cashews, and pistachios.
Here’s our comprehensive list of the 103 best foods for weight loss, according to nutritionists.
OK, so youre not dieting. That means that, yes, you can actually have those French fries. Just probably not every day. Consider quantity as a sliding scale, from limited fries and candy to unlimited veggies, and fill in from there with moderate portions of meat and beans (for protein), whole grains, and low-fat dairy. (The government is onto something with that whole MyPlate thing.) An extreme example: If someone ate only 600 calories of jelly beans a day, yes, theyd lose weight, but not support their health, says Hensrud. But theyd be pretty hungry and unsatisfied once the 60 or so jelly beans (or 150 smaller Jelly Bellys) were gone. (Note: Were also not suggesting 600 as your target calorie count, but you get what were saying.)
Candy. Kinda a no-brainer, since its either all sugar or sugar and fat. Still need your sweet fix? Get down with fun sizeand stick to one at a time.
Pastries. A combo of sugar, fat, and refined flouryeah, not so great for the waistline. And, unfortunately, that danish containing apples or the pie made of blueberries arent any better.
Deep-fried…anything. Oil soaking into those potatoes and breadings might taste great but its not filling and certainly won’t help you towards your weight loss goals.
Chips. Ones that are fried or cheese-powder-coated certainly dont scream good for you, but even the ones that purport to be healthy by being baked or made of, say, sweet potatoes, still are mostly empty calories.
White bread. The grains have been de-germed, rendering white bread fairly nutrient-sparse. Many are fortified (for that reason), but its generally better to get your nutrients from their natural, original source.
As noted, deprivation doesnt work long term. Thats why Nathane Jackson, C.S.C.S., R.H.N,, a health and wellness coach and founder of Nathane Jackson Fitness, recommends his clients follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your calories should come from fresh, whole single-ingredient foods that you eat in largely the form in which they grow in nature (produce, meat, nuts, etc.). The other 20% can be of the more processed variety, in which he includes foods that have a place in a healthy diet, such as whole-grain bread. Of that 20, he says 5 to 10% can be from the junk food column. But dont have chocolate or ice cream in the house, he says. Rig the game so you can win, rather that relying on willpower. If you want it, you can go get it, but make it an effort to do so.
After reading all that, you may still think you have some major dietary changes to make. Before you freak out, start by taking inventory of exactly what youre eating, including portion size. An app like MyFitnessPal can make logging easier, with its extensive database, barcode scanner, and memory of most-used foods (were creatures of habit, after all). If youre not good at estimating how much you ate (and studies show that most people arent), measure your food until youre better at eyeballing it. And dont ignore the calories you drink (soda, juice, beer), which Jackson says are easy ones to cut down on right off the bat. Once you know where youre starting, you can make changesslowly. Try adding one more serving of fruit and one more of veggies, and one less of meat each day, suggest Hensrud. Gradually, the goal is to have the nutrient-dense foods you add crowd out the calorie-dense ones you should limit, so you can eat plenty of food and feel full but consume fewer overall calories.
When it comes to weight loss, what you eat (and dont eat) is far more important than your exercise plan. However, the more you move, the more calories youll burn, which will set you up for greater success. Also, youll develop fitness habits that will be essential for maintaining that weight loss once you reach your goal. If youve been totally sedentary, that means starting by getting up off your duff more. Set a timer to go off every 50 minutes and stand up, walk around, move a little. Studies have shown time and again that people who are naturally thinner move moreup to two hours a day. This timer deal will get you there.
Just like you wont overhaul your diet, you dont need to suddenly become a gym rat. Were aiming for sustainable activity here, so if you go from zero to five days a week at the gym, eventually youre going to burn out. A more manageable goal, Jackson says, is to ramp up your activity slowly, starting with a half-hour walk every day. Then, he suggests some strength training two to three times per week to retain muscle as you lose fat. Choose multi-joint movements like squats, pushups, overhead presses, and rowsyour biceps are a small muscle, so they dont burn a ton of calories, Jackson saysand allow yourself plenty of rest between sets at first. Working out too intensely at first can affect your appetite and energy, so finding a balance is key, he says. A great circuit could include two or three sets, with 8-12 reps each and a few minutes rest between, of the following exercises:
– Squats- Supported Rows- Step-Ups- Overhead Presses- Glute Bridges- Incline Pushups
Once some of the weight is gone and youre feeling stronger, you can increase your strength-training intensity, taking shorter breaks between the exercises, which will increase the aerobic benefits. You may also add in one or two higher-impact cardio days, such as incline walking or running, cycling, or rowing. Start with steady-state workouts, where you go at the same pace for a half hour to 45 minutes, then play with intervals of exertion and recovery, which are higher intensity and have more calorie-burning benefits. Keep the higher-impact portion shorter than the recovery at firstsay 30 seconds or a minute on, 1 to 3 minutes offand then gradually decrease the recovery. When youre ready, you can then increase the push until youre at even time.
Chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your weight-loss efforts. Your hunger hormones reset when you sleep, too, so if youre deprived of quality and quantity sleep, youre behind the eight ball when you first wake up, and more likely to crave junk food and carbs, Jackson says. Sleep is also when your muscles repair post-workout, so its even more important to get enough once youve started your workout routine. Quantity is good, but quality is also important, Jackson says. Sleep hormones are naturally released around 8 or 9pm, so by going to bed at 10 or so, youll feel more replenished because youll have slept during the window for best quality.
Stress is another factor that can adversely affect your weight-loss efforts. When under stress, your body also releases cortisol, says Jackson. When stress is chronic, youre fighting an uphill battle to lose weight. Further, exercise itself is actually stress on the body, which is why its also important to have a balance of different intensities of training. He recommends meditation, conceding that at first most of his clients roll their eyes. But you dont have to be a monk sitting on a mountain in Tibet. Take 20 minutes a day to relax and breathe and focus. (Check out these Men’s Fitness cover guys who meditate for more motivation.)
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How to Lose Weight: A Comprehensive Diet/Training Plan to …