If you want to lose weight, there are a couple key questions to ask yourself:
- Why? Make sure you figure out exactly why you want to lose the weight- it should be for you and no one else.
- How much? Don’t sabotage your efforts by holding yourself to an “ideal” weight based upon what others look like or what you looked in your “younger” years. Set a weight that is realistic, healthy and comfortable for you.
- How fast? This is a big one- the slower you lose the weight, the easier it will be to maintain. Losing 2-3 pounds per week is the fastest you should go. Any faster than that and you are losing water, as well as not eating enough calories to maintain your body’s protein stores.
- How? When it comes to weight loss, lifestyle changes are what works- not a diet! Though progressing slowly can be discouraging, setting short-term, achievable goals are the best bet for achieving and maintaining your weight loss.
Losing weight is a matter of burning more calories then you eat. Be careful though, if you cut your calories back too far you could send your body into “survival” mode (which could cause your body to store what you eat as fat). Do not eat less than 1,500 calories per day without the supervision of a registered dietitian and physician.
Before you learn how many calories you need, take into consideration:
- How many calories you currently eat- If you are overeating calories, cutting daily calories back by 300-500 is an option. If you are eating enough calories, you may just need to add in exercise.
- How active you are- If you can do it, exercise is the perfect second arm to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss plan. You don’t have to become a marathon runner, but the more you move, the more you lose. Plus, the more calories you burn, the more calories you can eat!
Before making any changes to the foods you choose or the activities you do, keep track of a "typical" week’s worth of meals and activities on MyPyramid Tracker. It allows you to record and analyze your behaviors.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is a necessity for good health. It helps your body recover from the stressors of the day, repair and rebuild tissues, and balance hormone levels. But more than a recovery for the body, scientists are now seeing sleep as an important tool for preventing illness and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Balance Your Nutrition
Following a meal plan that is full of variety and balance is essential for long term weight management- and good health. Here are some of our favorite nutrition tips to get you started on a path to balanced nutrition. Just remember to start slow. If you see a few different practices you would like to make your own, practice these Steps to Success:
1-2-3: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. We obtain carbohydrates primarily from four food groups- Grains, Fruit, Vegetables, and Dairy. To meet daily grain goals, choose high fiber, whole grains. For fruits and vegetables, focus on vegetables, as they provide about 2/3 less carbohydrates per serving than fruits. When eating fruits, enjoy whole fruits versus juice most often. In the dairy group, watch out for added sugar in milk, yogurt, and frozen desserts. Remember, 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, if your yogurt contains 24 grams of sugar, you’re eating roughly 3 teaspoons of added sugar (because milk items without added sugar naturally contain about 12 grams of lactose [milk-sugar]). For cheese, choose low-fat versions, control portion sizes of high fat versions, and use grated varieties for cheesy flavor without extra fat.
To learn what your calorie goals are for weight loss, meeting with a registered dietitian for one-on-one coaching is your best bet. They will be able to take into consideration your medical history, likes, dislikes, and develop a plan of success with you. To find a dietitian to work with, contact your local hospital or visit the American Dietetic Association and click on "Find a Nutrition Professional".
Daily Physical Activity
Your body was meant to move. Whether you like to dance, hike, walk in the park, or ski, let it do its thing! Daily physical activity does more than help manage your weight. It builds strong bones, maintains muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat!), helps burn off stress, keeps your core muscles in check (important for balance), makes you feel good about yourself, and maintains a strong heart.
If you do not participate in any form of physical activity, but would like to begin, it’s essential to start off small and slow. First and foremost, consult a physician before you start working on the three components of physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strengthening, and flexibility.
How much each day?
Being physically active each day means participating in activity above your normal daily activities. Here are the USDA 2005 Dietary Guidelines for becoming physically active each day. Which goal is best for you?
How do I choose a gym?
With so many different options out there, it is important to find a fitness center that delivers. Look for a club that offers the safest and best exercise equipment, programs, and personnel to meet your needs. Regardless of how cheap the membership fee is, you need to screen potential centers before signing the dotted line.
When you are stressed, regardless what the cause is, you react physically. Specifically your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and muscle tension increases. If left untreated, living in a constant state of stress could lead to digestion, sleeping, psychological, and immune system problems. Therefore, your long term health depends on our ability to cope with both daily stress and stressful events.