Year after year, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions – especially for women – is losing weight. Whether it’s losing that holiday weight gain or the final pounds from last year’s weight loss, resolve to do it right this year!
Simplify your plans by narrowing them down to 3 simple categories: healthy weight loss foods, healthy weight loss exercises and healthy weight loss habits. By keeping elements of these three categories in mind year-round, you can achieve your weight loss goals healthfully and successfully.
Healthy Weight Loss Foods
Healthy weight loss foods are nutritionally dense, yet low in calories. Not surprisingly, foods high on this list include most fruits and vegetables which are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Other foods like whole grains which are high in fiber help keep you feeling full longer. Lean protein sources satisfy your hunger longer than empty calories provided in sugary or fat laden snacks. Check out how these foods can help you reach your weight loss goals.
Fruits. Simply adding a daily serving of fruit to your diet can equal up to a half-pound weight loss over the course of a few years. Most fruits are fat-free and have high water content. They fill up your plate and stomach so you don’t overindulge on other, not-so-good-for-you foods. Many fruits also have a low glycemic load, so they don’t raise your blood sugar levels too rapidly, and they can be a good source of fiber (apples, oranges, pears, plums), which slows digestion and gives you that “full” feeling. Eat fruits of various colors. Berries, in particular, are low in carbohydrates and a good source of antioxidants, which can help lower blood pressure and fight off oxidative stress from free radicals.
Vegetables. A rainbow of vegetables and lots of dark, leafy greens are key to healthful weight and fat loss. Vegetables are low in calories and high in volume, fiber, and nutrients. Both the USDA’s MyPlate icon and Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables – with the larger portion being vegetables. Avoid potatoes, which are linked to weight gain – 1.28 – 1.69 pounds over four years – and are high in simple carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels and make you hungrier faster. And try substituting meat with mushrooms in recipes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Weight Management Center found that replacing meat with mushrooms was not only tasty and satisfying but could also save more than 18,000 calories, 3,000 grams of fat, and 5.3 pounds over the course of a year.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables makes it 2.5 times more likely that you’ll lose weight and keep it off.
Lean Protein. Eat protein at every sitting, especially breakfast, to control appetite and lose fat while building and retaining lean muscle mass. Experts advise consuming 30 grams in the morning, and consuming between 0.5 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, shooting toward the middle if you’re very active and trying to lose weight. The best choices are egg whites, skinless white-meat poultry, like chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Look for cuts labeled “round” or “loin,” as these tend to have less fat than other cuts. Also, trim off any visible fat, and use low-fat cooking methods such as broiling and grilling versus pan-frying. Don’t feel meat is your only protein option, either. Tofu, hemp seed, buckwheat, and quinoa are non-meat complete protein options. And incomplete proteins such as peanut butter, brown rice, and beans can supplement complete proteins to boost protein intake. Minimize consumption of red meat, both processed and unprocessed, as it not only contains higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol but has also been linked to weight gain.
Whole Grains. Consumption of whole grains is also linked to lower body weight and BMI. They contain more fiber, which helps you feel satisfied, are lower in carbohydrates, and are lower on the glycemic index compared to refined grains; this means they are absorbed into your bloodstream more slowly, allowing you to go longer without feeling hungry. Brown and wild rice, oats, buckwheat, barley, millet, quinoa, sorghum (gluten-free) and even corn (in moderation) in minimally-processed form are good sources of whole grains. Be choosy when choosing “whole wheat,” as the term is often misused. Sprouted wheat, wheatberries, and spelt are forms of whole grain wheat, making them healthier and more nutritious than refined wheat.
Nuts. Studies have shown that people who include nuts in their diet lose more weight. Two or more servings a week have been associated with improved weight loss/control in a Harvard study. While they are high in calories and fat, most of the fat is healthy, unsaturated fat, and the calorie and protein content promotes feelings of satiety, balancing out the caloric load with less intake of food. They’re low in carbohydrates, and they’ve shown positive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and heart disease risk.
Green Tea. Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a compound that may help reduce fat absorption and increase the amount of fat eliminated by the body, according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University. Substitute green tea for your morning cup of coffee, have it as a digestif after a meal, or relax with a cup before bed. Worried about caffeine? Opt for decaf. In addition to its fat-fighting powers, green tea is also a great source of antioxidants and has been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, and it may even help fight diabetes and stroke.
Avoid sugary beverages like the plague, as they have been linked time and time again to weight gain as well as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and gout. Just one 20 oz. can of a sugar-sweetened beverage daily can cause a 25 lb. weight gain in one year!
Healthy Weight Loss Moves
Recent research shows that aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is best for burning fat. Keep things interesting by doing different kinds of exercises; this makes it more than 2.5 times more likely that you’ll lose the weight and keep it off. Also, doing exercises you enjoy increases the likelihood of successful weight loss by nearly two times.
The more you weigh, the more you burn. See how these fun aerobic exercises stack up for calorie-burning:
Walking/Jogging. Brisk, vigorous walking/jogging (1 mile in 10 minutes) burns 180 calories/half-hour for a 125 lb. person, 223 calories/half-hour for a 155 lb. person, and 266 calories/half-hour for a 185 lb. person. Take the dog with you, and knock out two tasks at once.
Yoga. Hatha yoga, the most popular type of yoga that focuses on stretching, breath control, and posture flow, can burn between 120 – 178 calories/half-hour. More vigorous forms such as Ashtanga (also known as power or vinyasa yoga) and Bikram yoga can burn even more calories.
Stationary Bicycling. Biking in place can expend anywhere from 210-466 calories/half-hour, depending on intensity. Many gyms have classes that vary intensity to maximize metabolic rate increase, and being in a class can both motivate you and keep you accountable.
Elliptical Trainer. Jumping on the elliptical at the gym or at home can burn 270/335/400 calories per half-hour for people weighing 125, 155, and 185 lbs. respectively. You can listen to music or even watch TV as you exercise, making this a literal no-brainer workout that’s over before you even know it.
Dancing. Dance the night and the calories away with friends (180-266 calories per half-hour). Just make sure to go easy on the drinks to benefit from this “workout.”
Skiing. Downhill skiing burns anywhere from 180-266 calories/half-hour. This means a few hours on the slopes each day could equal noticeable weight loss during your ski vacation, as long as you’re careful about what you eat and drink.
Swimming. A good, low-impact exercise that’s great for all ages, general swimming can burn 180-266 calories/half-hour.
Kayaking. A fun couples/pairs activity, kayaking gets you outdoors on the water and expends 150-222 calories per half-hour.
Martial Arts. Sign up for a martial arts class like judo, karate, or kickboxing and burn anywhere from 300-444 calories per half-hour. Take into consideration that most classes are an hour long, and see up to 600-888 calories slip away. Increased strength and self-defense skills? Just another added benefit.
Tennis. Singles or doubles tennis is a great workout, burning 210-311 calories/half-hour during a moderate match and 300-444 calories/half-hour during intense competition.
Running. his is still the best bang-for-the-buck aerobic exercise, burning 240 – 644 calories/half-hour depending on intensity (12 min. mile – 7 min. mile).
Don’t forget about resistance training. A twice-weekly regimen of eight to 12 resistance exercises can increase strength by up to 75% in a year and build metabolism-boosting lean muscle mass.
Healthy Weight Loss Tips
Certain habits, too, are common among those who successfully lose 10% of their body weight and keep it off.
Participate in a weight loss program. A program can provide both support and accountability, and teamwork has been proven to aid in successful weight loss. Joining a program can more than triple the likelihood of achieving significant weight loss.
Weigh yourself. Individuals who weigh themselves regularly increase their odds of losing weight by 1.7 times. Seeing the pounds drop off can be a great motivator, and hitting a plateau can indicate a need to change your strategy.
Keep a food journal. Monitoring what you eat leads to weight loss by making you aware of what and how much you eat. It also helps prevent overeating and tracks your progress.
Control your portions. Want to be 2.18 times more likely to lose weight? Portion control is key. Use a smaller plate, and dedicate half of it to fruits and vegetables – more vegetables than fruit. A healthy serving of lean protein should be no bigger than your palm, and a serving of whole grains should be no larger than a fistful. When eating out, choose a “small-plate” dish, split an entrée, or ask for a take-out container and pack half the food away for a more appropriate portion.
Read nutrition labels. Get thin by knowing what you’re putting in your shopping cart. Once you know how many calories, how much fat, and how few nutrients are in food, you can make healthier choices and nearly double the odds of losing weight.
Keep an exercise journal. Keep yourself accountable by keeping track of your physical activity. This will make it 1.68 times more likely you will lose weight and keep it off.
Think about your progress. Progress is the greatest motivator, and just thinking about how far you’ve come will nearly triple your chances of success. Thinking about how much healthier you feel and how close you are to reaching your goal will keep you going.
Reward yourself for persistence. When you do well, reward yourself. Does this mean go enjoy a big slice of triple-chocolate cake with whipped cream? Do yourself one better. Treat yourself to a night out or a new outfit to show off the new and improved figure. Encouraging yourself with small rewards will make success twice as likely.
And finally, know when to stop. Set realistic, healthy, achievable goals for weight loss, and when you reach a sensible goal weight, stop the weight loss but continue the lifestyle. Why lose weight only to go back to old habits? Stick with the healthy foods, moves, and habits to maintain your new figure.
This year, don’t just resolve to lose weight. Resolve to live healthfully, because good health means living fully. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.