Practical Guidelines to Lose Weight
Dieting and losing weight is not easy. If it was, rates of overweight and obesity would be much lower. But many dieters do manage to lose weight and change their body shape by following a sensible weight loss diet plan that offers slow, steady weight loss, and by taking regular physical exercise. To help you lose weight, here are some practical guidelines for both diet and exercise, plus a few questions to ask yourself concerning weight loss attitudes and benefits.
Why Do You Want to Lose Weight?
Have you had a good think about why you want to lose weight? It may help to look at it in terms of what your weight or body shape is stopping you from doing now. Make sure you think of benefits other than changes to appearance, such as health benefits or having the energy to do more with the family. The statistic that obesity can take 9 years off a person’s life expectancy may also be very motivating.
Are You Ready to Lose Weight?
Answer true or false:
- I have thought carefully about why I want to lose weight
- I want to lose weight for myself, not for other people
- I am prepared to put effort into changing my food and activity each week to lose weight
- I appreciate that I need to make attitude and lifestyle changes for long term weight loss success
For every ‘false’, have a rethink. It is a sign that you may not be ready to lose weight in a way that will lead to long term weight control.
What is the Best Way to Lose Weight?
There is no “best” way to lose weight. Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about setting up a weight loss plan.
Take Regular Exercise
Regular physical activity is an important part of effective weight loss and weight maintenance. It also can help prevent several diseases and improve your overall health. It does not matter what type of physical activity you perform - sports, planned exercise, household chores, yard work, or work-related tasks - all are beneficial. Studies show that even the most inactive people can gain measurable health benefits if they accumulate 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day.
Research consistently shows that regular physical activity, combined with healthy eating habits, is the most efficient and healthful way to control your weight. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain it, you should understand the important role of physical activity and include it in your lifestyle.
Liposuction is a serious surgical procedure which removes fat from the body. It is not a fast way to lose weight since no more than about 4-5 pounds of body fat can safely be removed at one time. Neither is liposuction a cure for cellulite. Health risks and side-effects of liposuction include: bruising and swelling of affected areas; infection, blood poisoning, skin numbness/ puffiness and anemia, as well as a lumpy appearance if fat is not removed evenly. Liposuction is not an easy option to lose weight: consult your doctor before acting.
Gastrointestinal Weight Loss Surgery
Like weight loss drugs, gastrointestinal or bariatric surgery is designed to relief severe obesity. It is not a casual option to lose weight.
Beware Unproven Weight Loss Products
Feeling bad about our body shape sometimes makes us want to lose weight so badly that we resort to ‘miracle’ diet products. So beware! Such phony weight loss methods do nothing for our waistline or our body shape.
Eat Fewer Calories
The best formula for losing weight is to decrease the number of calories you get while increasing your physical activity every day. Depending on how active you are, you may need between 1,500 - 2,500 calories a day. A safe plan is to eat 300 to 500 fewer calories a day to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
Practice Portion Control
Eat smaller amounts of food at each meal. Let go of belonging to the “clean plate club.” Don’t feel like you have to eat everything on your plate, even when eating out. You can also try eating more small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
Lose Weight Slowly
It is best to aim for losing 1/2 to 2 pounds a week. By improving eating and exercise habits, you will develop a healthier lifestyle. And, this will help you to control your weight over time. You will also lower your chances of getting heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. “Crash” diets may take off pounds faster, but can cause you to gain back even more pounds than you lost after you stop the diet.
Eat Less Fat and Sugar
This will help lower the number of calories you eat each day. Select foods whose labels say low, light or reduced to describe calories or fat, including milk products and cheese. Eat lean types of meat, poultry, and fish. Eat less sugar and fewer sweets (don’t forget that soda and juice can have lots of sugar). Drink less alcohol.
Eat a Wide Variety of Foods
Eat a wide variety of foods, including starches and dairy products. This helps your body to get the nutrients and vitamins it needs to be healthy. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, grain products and whole grains each day. Don’t skip dairy products - there are many good tasting low, no, and reduced fat milks, yogurts, cheeses, ice creams, and other products to choose from. Proper calcium intake is needed for all women to prevent bone loss.
Get Support to Lose Weight
It can be hard to start a weight loss program, particularly if you are out of shape and not used to exercising. Ask your family and friends for support. Try to find an exercise buddy. Make your activity fun and social - go on a walk or hike with a friend or learn a new sport like tennis or ice-skating.
Treat Yourself Occasionally
When trying to lose weight, we all feel tempted to “cheat” by eating a favorite, rich food like cake or cookies. But, sometimes it can be helpful to eat a small amount of a favorite food. This may keep you from craving it and overeating if you do “cheat.”
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD