Each year people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. The reason they may fall short is because they don’t have specific goals for exercise, nutrition, or the journey on how to get there.
Here are five steps that can help learn the balance between food choices and physical activity.
According to the National Weight Control Registry, of adults who have successfully maintained their weight loss:
- 98% have modified their eating habits.
- 94% have increase their level of physical activity, especially walking.
- 78% eat a healthy breakfast everyday.
- 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of television per week.
Use these five steps to begin your weight loss journey:
1. Set realistic goals.
Before beginning a weight-loss program, assess where you are today so you know what you need to improve. Learn your BMI to help determine how much weight you would like to lose to reduce your risk of health problems.
Set yourself up for success with short-term goals, like “I will make lifestyle changes which will help me lose (and keep off) 3-5% of my body weight” or “I will reduce the amount of times that I eat out each week from ___ to ____.”
Short-term goals like these can seem more achievable, and can, little by little, keep you on track toward your long-term goals. If the goal is too difficult, it’s harder to achieve and can lead to self-judgement and disappointment that can derail the smaller successes you’ve achieved.
2. Understand how much and why you eat.
Use a food diary or tracking app for a while to gain an understanding of what, how much, and when you are eating. If you tend to snack late at night or visit fast food restaurants several times a week, those might be opportunities to make healthier choices. Being mindful of your eating habits and aware of common roadblocks and excuses in your efforts to lose weight can help you set and reach realistic goals.
3. Manage portion sizes.
It’s easy to overeat when you’re served too much food. Smaller portions can help prevent eating too much. Learn the difference between a portion and a serving and how to keep portions reasonable.
4. Make smart substitutions to reduce sodium, saturated fat and added sugar.
Foods high in saturated and trans fat and sugar are often high in calories too. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite flavors. Learn to make smart substitutions instead. Learn how to reduce the added sugars in your diet with these infographics. Take the 21-Day Sodium Challenge to reduce the sodium you eat. Discover healthy snacks for between meals and fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods to help keep you fuller longer.
5. Balance what you eat with physical activity.
Most of us can agree it’s easier to take calories in than to burn them. The amount of physical activity an individual needs to lose weight can vary, but in the weight-loss equation, healthy eating and physical activity complement each other. Both are essential parts of losing weight and staying at a healthy weight. Physical activity is anything that gets your heart rate up. Learn the AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults.
Tips to help you on your weight-loss journey:
- You may want to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN) to create a healthy eating plan. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a “find a dietitian” resource on their website.
- Learn how sleep can affect eating and see if there are changes you could make in your sleep schedule.
- If you feel you need more support, look for a weight-loss program that’s been proven safe and successful. Get personal support from a weight-loss group or buddy.
- Aim for a gradual weight loss with healthy lifestyle changes until you reach a healthy weight.
- If you have any heart conditions or you are experiencing symptoms of other chronic health issues, talk to your healthcare provider before starting a weight-loss or exercise program.
- Include maintenance in your goals to help you keep the weight off.
- Remember, these steps lead to life-long healthy eating. They are not a quick-fix diet.
|Eating traditional desserts after meals||Treat yourself to a healthier sweet like fruit.|
|Going hungry between meals||Plan ahead and bring healthy snacks with you wherever you go so you won’t be tempted to pick up something unhealthy.|
|Eating while you cook||Don’t eat until you are sitting at the table with a plate and proper portion sizes in front of you.|
|Shopping for food when you’re hungry||Eat a healthy meal or snack before you grocery shop. If you go to the store hungry you’re more likely to buy on impulse.|
|Weighing yourself every day||Weighing yourself once a week. We recommend choosing the schedule that works best for you. If you have heart failure, you must check your weight every day to look for sudden changes.|
Tips provided by American Heart Association.