The number of weight loss fads that are available through the internet, magazines, friends and other outlets are numerous. It almost appears as though everyday someone is cooking up a new idea and selling it as the best way to lose weight quickly. As a dietitian, I am not a big proponent of these “diets.” They promote rapid, unsustainable weight loss and some can be extremely dangerous. Rather, I advocate for weight loss achieved through behavior and lifestyle changes coupled with regular physical activity. What exactly does that mean? It means changing your definition of the word “diet” from some restrictive eating plan to a healthy plan with food choices that are part of your daily life….FOREVER!!! It means making small conscious choices about your health and recommitting to them several times a day. Above all, it means being tired of the consistent ups and downs of rapid weight loss plans and wanting to make changes that are lasting, effective and healthy. Here are a few tips to achieving long term weight loss.
1) Set Goals. Whether it is for health reasons, to fit in your skinny jeans, attract that perspective partner or simply to enjoy life a little more, setting goals helps you keep focused and attentive to the reason why you are changing your habits. Keep in mind though that this weight loss is going to be for the rest of your life so choose a goal that motivates you. Joining in the weight loss competition at work may get you started but it will not motivate you to keep going after the competition is over. So, make it about you and set a goal you know you want to achieve and can recommit to every single day.
2) Small changes equal big strides. Remember, the objective is to lose weight and keep it off, so take it slowly and make the changes stick. A diet and lifestyle change does not have to be complicated with large eliminations of food groups and drastic exercise programs. Small changes make the difference. For example, switch from regular milk to reduced fat, replace sugary drinks with water and other unsweetened beverages, park your car a little further in parking lot and take a 10 minute walk on your break time. As these small changes stick, add more to them and watch the weight disappear.
3) Eat the rainbow. A rainbow is colorful and inviting, and so should your plate. From purples to reds and yellows to greens, fruits and vegetables provide much color and variety to brighten up your plate and spice up your diet. In addition, they are often low in calorie and high in nutritional content. They pack on much fiber and water which add bulk in your diet, increasing satiety and decreasing room for high calorie, high fat foods of lower nutritional content.
4) Measure and celebrate your successes. Whether you choose to step on the scale, measure your waistline and body fat percentage or try to jump in that special piece of clothing, you have to occasionally measure your progress and celebrate your successes. Just be careful how you choose to celebrate. Indulging on your favorite high calorie dessert may be counterproductive so choose a reward that is not centered around high calorie foods. Perhaps a new pair of shoes, a pedicure, a ball game or simply a quiet afternoon at home will be a nice reward for the hard work. If food must be your celebration of choice, remember to stick to the small changes that you have had and do not over-indulge.
5) Fall and bounce right up. Behaviors are developed over time and you will fall back into old habits. That’s okay. It is not the falling back that gets you into trouble but what you do afterwards that matters. This is now part of your lifestyle! While not ideal, it is okay for you to sit on the couch for a few days, but do not let that define you, get up and bounce back to where you were before. If you feel like eating a scoop of ice cream, do so, but watch your portion and choose not to eat ice cream or other high calorie/high fat foods every day. Live your life and do what makes you happy, but remember your goal.
6) Get Support. Everyone needs that personal cheer leader in their corner. That person who tells gets you to put on your walking shoes, encourages you to choose water instead of soda and picks you up when you feel you cannot do it any longer. It may be a spouse, a child, a neighbor, co-worker, weight loss group or dietitian. These cheer leaders come in different forms but they all have your best interest at heart. They are essential in keeping you on track and help you to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals.
While fad diets and lose-weight-quick schemes and gimmicks often work, their results are short term and can leave an individual frustrated and at a higher weight than when they first started. Slowly but surely wins the race so take your time and make small simple changes that can improve your health and weight for a lifetime. Always remember that the diet that works is not about restrictions, it is about life long changes that stick and allow you to enjoy the food you love.
- The Diets To Avoid (theafricanpotnutrition.com)
- Study: Fruits, vegetables may be key to long-term weight loss (goerie.com)