What steps can you take to take off weight and keep it off? I've reported on walking and weight loss for over 15 years. I've seen many fads come and go, and weight come off and come back on (both for myself and my friends). No one tactic will work for every person. But these are the strategies that work best for me.
1. Exercise Isn't the Answer, But It's Critical for How You Look and FeelYou absolutely need to exercise a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes total each day, but the calories you burn exercising are the smallest part of its benefit during your weight loss efforts. You need it for changing your body's shape through toning and building muscle, improving your mood and metabolism, and reducing your health risks. I cannot lose weight through exercise alone. I have to strictly watch how much I eat, because it only takes one doughnut, one order of fries, or one extra helping of even a "healthy" entree each day to eliminate the extra calories burned.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
2. Wear a Pedometer and Get to Your Step Count Goal Each DayIt's easy for me to justify sitting at my desk and kid myself that I will make it up on the weekend. But if I wear a pedometer that celebrates when I make it to my step count goal for the day, I am motivated to get in short walking workouts throughout the day and/or a longer exercise session. I like using a pedometer that uploads its data to an app or computer, so I have an honest look at my exercise activity and extra calories burned.
How Many Steps Per Day Are Enough?
Before You Buy a Pedometer
3. Choose an Eating Plan that Makes SenseIf you are eating "fake food" when on a diet and hoping to supplement it with vitamins, does that make sense? Will you be able to make good food choices if you are out and about and don't have access to your special diet food? I like to use a portion-controlled diet to re-educate myself as to what the portions are I should be eating. Then when I am served a burrito the size of my head, I know that it should be shared, or split into two or more meals. Choose a diet that gives you lots of real vegetables and fruit. That way you are getting all of the micronutrients and fiber in real food. When it comes right down to it, I agree the best diet is summed up by Michael Pollan in "In Defense of Food": "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
How to Find the Right Diet
4. Eliminate TemptationsI just don't keep high-calorie snacks in my home or office. A tub of ice cream keeps calling my name from the freezer, as does a bag of potato chips. I ban them from my house, because if they are there, I will eventually eat them. If I'm hungry at the office, the cookies, crackers and corn chips in the vending machine attract me with the gravity of a black hole -- and there is nothing in the machine that is under 200 calories. I have to place that machine off limits.
5. Keep Healthy Low Calorie Snacks Readily AvailableI find low-calorie, healthy replacements and make sure I have ready access to them whenever I might get hungry. For the past two years, my go-to snacks are those "Cutie" small mandarin oranges and Laughing Cow low fat cheese wedges. The Cuties take time to peel and eat in sections and satisfy a desire for something sweet and tangy. The cheese satisfies my desire for something salty and creamy. Knowing these are there when I am hungry, I can have a snack of under 100 calories, avoid the vending machine, and make it to my next meal.
6. Plan What You Will EatI'm a convenience eater. If I don't have my meals planned out for the next couple of days (at least), I can easily start substituting things that are wrong for my diet.
Meal Planning for Weight Loss
7. Use a Food Diary or App to Keep Yourself HonestI stop losing weight when I stop logging my food, it's that simple. If I use our free CalorieCount app or online food diary, I have better willpower for resisting diet-busting food. If I'm not logging my food, I kid myself that I will make it up with exercise or eating less at the next meal. You can also use good old paper and pencil.
Using a Food Diary
8. Don't Drink CaloriesI'm lucky in that I like plain old ice water, and I don't mind tap water. I keep a tall glass of ice water next to me in the office and at my side at home in the evening. I drink ice water with meals. I drink black coffee only. I save wine and beer for non-diet days. If you just don't like plain water, try water flavorings with plain water or seltzer water. I don't think diet soft drinks are going to kill me, but water is readily available and practically free, why not drink it?
9. Do a Regular Weigh-In that Gets RecordedIf I don't weigh myself at least twice a week. I stop losing weight. Knowing that I will be weighing-in and the results, for better or worse, will go into my diet diary, keeps me on track. It gives me positive reinforcement if I have lost weight. If I haven't lost, I have to face the truth about what I've been doing, and make adjustments. I found that using a Wi-Fi scale where my results would be automatically transmitted and logged was even better. If you are using a program such as Weight Watchers that has weekly weigh-ins, you know the power of having that to keep you on track.
10. Make a Strong StartWhile I've read many tips for eliminating calories here and there and adding a little more exercise, I have never been able to lose weight that way. I have to make a full commitment to a low calorie diet and increased exercise and stick with it for the first month. Seeing those first "easy" pounds come off gives me incentive to keep at it.
Walk of Life 10-Week Program: Our free program for walking, exercise, and losing weight.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Accessed January 31, 2011. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm.
Source: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. updated 10/7/2008. Accessed 10/9/2008.