Whether you want to lose weight to improve your health or fit into a dress, making healthy lifestyle changes is the key to lasting success. Start by identifying challenges and obstacles to losing weight.
Sudden, significant weight loss can be a sign of illness or a side effect of some medications. Talk to your GP if this happens.
Set Realistic Goals
When attempting to lose weight, realistic goals are key to success. Trying to reach a goal that is too far out of your reach will only lead to frustration and discouragement. You may also be tempted to try more extreme dieting methods that can be harmful to your health or even lead to eating disorders. Using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) method when setting goals can help you create a weight loss plan that fits your lifestyle and will be sustainable in the long run.
The first step in creating realistic weight loss goals is to determine the reasons you want to lose weight. Whether it is to improve your health, look better in clothes or simply feel more confident, writing down the reasons you want to make changes can serve as a daily reminder of your commitment. In addition, tracking your progress by keeping a food and beverage diary can help you become more aware of your habits.
Achievable weight-loss goals can be defined as the amount of bodyweight you want to lose each week, month or year. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a weekly loss of 1 to 2 pounds. This can be achieved by combining a healthy diet with regular exercise.
In a recent study, 3916 participants participated in a community-based survey that included self-reported measures of dream/goal/happy/acceptable/disappointed weight, weight-loss activity, quality of life and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Unrealistic weight-loss goals were defined as a goal that was >=10% above one's initial weight.
The participants of this study cited unrealistic weight-loss goals as the most common reason for not meeting their goal. They reported that these false beliefs led to a vicious cycle of feeling overwhelmed and failing to achieve the goals they had set. These failed attempts can then lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression, which in turn can lead to relapses and the abandonment of healthy eating behaviors.
Instead of focusing on weight, consider setting process goals that are more easily attainable within the context of your daily life, such as logging 10,000 steps per day or exercising three times per week. These goals will help you change your behaviors and build healthier habits, which is what is most important in the long term.
Eat a Well-balanced Diet
A healthy diet is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. It should contain a variety of foods from the five main food groups, and avoid those that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
The types of nutrients and calories that are needed differ by sex, age and activity level. To get the most out of your diet it is recommended that you choose foods from each of the main food groups - fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy.
For example, the Eatwell guide recommends that people make most of their meals from vegetables and fruit (at least 5 portions a day), while limiting foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar. It is also suggested that you choose a range of different foods within each group to ensure that you get the most from your diet and prevent dietary boredom.
Some foods that do not fit into the main food groups, such as fried or fast foods, can be eaten occasionally but should form no more than 10% of your daily calories. These are often referred to as "discretionary choices" and should be consumed sparingly.
It is also recommended that you include some healthy fats in your diet, although these should not be the primary source of your energy. Choosing unsaturated fats such as those found in olive, avocado and vegetable oils, rather than saturated fats, is good for your heart health.
It is important that your diet includes plenty of protein to keep you feeling full and fueled. However, the type of proteins that you eat should be balanced. Aim to have a portion of protein at each meal, as well as a portion of carbohydrates from whole grains. Protein can be obtained from fish, poultry, lean red meat, beans and lentils, eggs, nuts and seeds. Carbohydrates should come from vegetables and fruit, preferably those that are steamed, boiled or roasted. It is recommended that you avoid overly processed foods, such as those made from white flour. This can contribute to increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Exercise is key to controlling weight, especially in conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet. However, many people feel discouraged when they don’t see immediate results from their workouts. To lose weight, the calories you burn must exceed the calories you consume. Even when you don’t lose weight, regular exercise helps to keep your metabolism working efficiently. It also promotes mental health, which can improve your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety or depression.
Those who want to lose weight should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This doesn’t mean you need to sweat buckets at the gym or run a marathon. In fact, most people can start by exercising for 15 or 20 minutes most days. If you can’t commit to 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, you could break your exercise up into two or three 10-minute sessions if that’s easier for you. In addition to cardiovascular exercise, try including a few short periods of strength training each week and stretching exercises every day.
Some people find it helpful to work with a personal trainer or exercise class instructor. They can help you develop a workout plan and provide motivation to stick with your routine. They can also offer suggestions for how to increase the effectiveness of your workouts, like changing up your running route or adding a few hills, or adding in some more strength training exercises.
Another way to get more exercise is by walking during your lunch break. One study found that workers who took a 30 minute walk instead of sitting for their lunch saw a huge improvement in their productivity. This is because walking gets your heart rate up and increases circulation throughout your body, which can help to relieve stress.
If you’re unsure how to fit exercise into your daily life, you can try some simple activities like swimming or dancing. It’s also important to vary your workouts, as your body can become accustomed to the same routine over time. You can also ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend an exercise program that’s right for you, especially if you have health problems like osteoporosis, arthritis or other joint issues.
Stress can affect the body in many ways, including disrupting normal metabolism and nutrient absorption. This can result in weight gain or loss, as well as increased susceptibility to illnesses such as colds and flu. It is therefore important to manage stress levels in order to achieve weight loss goals.
Unhealthy stress-induced behaviors, such as binge eating or skipping meals, can have a profound effect on one’s ability to lose weight. This can be the result of high levels of cortisol, poor self-regulation or a combination of both. In addition, people who struggle with stress-related eating often do not have the time or motivation to prepare healthy, balanced meals for themselves.
Incorporating exercise and relaxation techniques into your daily routine can be helpful in reducing stress levels. Regular exercise helps to release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and it has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. In addition, deep breathing exercises and meditation can help to relax the mind and body, thereby lowering stress levels.
Getting enough sleep can also help to reduce stress. Studies have shown that getting adequate amounts of sleep can increase the metabolism, decrease blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels. Insufficient sleep is linked to stress, depression and anxiety, which can further contribute to weight issues.
In a recent study, participants who underwent an 8-week stress management program showed improvements in their BMI, perceived stress, level of depression, and HLC (homeostatic locus control) over the control group. Those who participated in the study also reported more positive changes to their diet, physical activity and lifestyle habits, which was a result of incorporating stress management techniques into their daily routine.